Judge calls for compensation scheme for crime victims

The Irish Times – August 23, 2016

The State should provide compensation for victims of crime who suffer long-term and life changing injuries, according to a judge who has criticised “a serious gap in our laws”.

Judge Keenan Johnson made the comments as he imposed a 10-year sentence in an assault case where, he said, the crime scene was “like something out of a horror movie”.

Michael Gleeson  (33) of Morette, Emo, Portlaoise had pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary at the home of Paul and Elizabeth Kelly in Ballydavis, Portlaoise, on May 4th 2015.

The judge said Mr Kelly’s bedroom was like an abattoir after the attack.

Charges of assault causing harm and of threatening to kill were taken into consideration by the judge who suspended the final two years of the sentence.

He called for fairness for victims of serious crime. “Given that we have an adequate compensation system in place to compensate prison officers and gardaí who are injured in the course of their duties, and road users who are injured by uninsured drivers, I think it is only fair and just that we have similar provisions in place to aid and assist victims of crime,” said the judge.

HEROIN ADDICT

Imposing sentence at Sligo Circuit Court, he said the accused – “a confirmed heroin addict” – had met Paul Kelly in a pub where he accused Mr Kelly of staring at him.

Later than night Gleeson went to the Kellys’ home where “high on a combination of drugs and alcohol” he had kicked in the door, threatening to kill Mr Kelly before proceeding to a bedroom.

“The accused pulled Mr Kelly out of the bed and proceeded to subject him to one of the most vicious assaults I have ever come across,” the judge said.

The court heard that Mr Kelly suffered a fracture of the front of the skull, between the eye-sockets and the sinus, and a broken jaw bone. He was in hospital for several weeks following the assault and was unable to attend the sentencing hearing as he was afraid to be in the same room as the accused.

The judge said photographs of the bedroom after the assault were like something out of a horror movie. “The bedroom is like an abattoir with blood all over the place,” he said.

Judge Johnson said it was a “gross inequity” that if Mr Kelly had been the victim of a similar crime in Northern Ireland or Britain he would be compensated for his physical and psychological injuries as well as his out of pocket expenses.

“If we are serious about having a balanced criminal justice system, the issue of compensation for victims of crime who are seriously injured as a consequence of crime needs to be revisited as a matter of urgency,” said the judge.

The State spends huge sums of money punishing criminals through imprisonment, “yet little or no expenditure is provided for making redress to victims of crime”.

‘CREATIVE THINKING’

Pointing out that it costs an estimated €65,000 a year to keep an offender in prison Judge Johnson said: “Imagine what help compensation of €65,000 would provide to a victim like Mr Kelly”.

He said that with “a bit of vision and creative thinking”, the competing interests of society, the victim and the accused could be accommodated in a budget neutral fashion. A compensation fund for victims could be funded from the money saved by the greater use of suspended sentences, thereby reducing prison expenditure.

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