independent

Saturday 20 January 2018

Rebecca treated worse than an animal - Judge

FRUSTRATION THAT JAIL TERMS CAN'T BE LONGER:

THE JUDGE who last week jailed four men in connection with the death of Rebecca French (pictured above) told them they had treated the Wexford mother of two worse than an animal.

'You showed no respect for Rebecca French after she died. You disposed of her body in a manner not befitting an animal,' said Mr Justice Barry White at the Central Criminal Court.

He was also sorry he could not hand down longer prison terms than the maximum allowed of ten years each, saying that in his mind, those sentences were 'not half long enough'.

FOUR MEN HAVE BEEN given the maximum sentence of 10 years for disposing of and attempting to destroy the body of a mother-of-two beaten to death in Wexford last year.

However, the presiding judge at the Central Criminal Court said he would have jailed them for longer if he had been able to do so.

'In my view, 10 years is inadequate as a maximum punishment for this type of offence, but I am bound by the law,' said Mr Justice Barry White.

'It seems to me there is little if any room for distinguishing between the four of you,' he continued. 'You showed no respect for Rebecca French after she died. You disposed of her body in a manner not befitting an animal.'

Three of the men had part of their sentences suspended provided they return to their native Lithuania and Poland when released from jail.

The fourth man, who is Irish, also had part of his sentence suspended.

Rebecca French was found dead in the boot of her burning car on October 9, 2009, on the outskirts of Wexford town. The state believes the 30-year-old was beaten to death beforehand in the house of one of the defendants at Ard Na Dara, Clonard.

Mr Justice Barry White said one or more of the four men was responsible for ' brutally and savagely' killing her, but enjoyed a presumption of innocence for this.

All four had pleaded guilty to impeding the investigation.

The Lithuanian defendants, Ricardas Dilys (28) and Ruslanas Mineikas ( 26), of Goodtide Harbour and formerly of Davitt Road South, both in Wexford town, were last month on trial for her murder, pleading not guilty.

The murder charges were dropped when a legal technicality meant their admissions in garda custody could not be used against them and they pleaded guilty to the lesser crime. Gardaí then said they would not be looking for anyone else in connection with what they believed was a murder.

The other men, Patrick O'Connor ( 41) of Ard Na Dara, Clonard, Wexford, and 27-year-old Polish man Piotr Pasiak of Lower John Street in Wexford had already pleaded guilty to impeding the investigation and were never on trial for murder.

It emerged on Friday that two of the men had offered pleas to manslaughter during their garda interviews, but these were not accepted by the DPP. This was his right, said the judge, and these pleas were not proffered during arraignment.

'Our law does not permit for the finding of guilt by accusation,' he said.

' The State had not been in a position to adduce evidence as to what in fact happened to Rebecca French,' he said, explaining that this was why nobody had been or could be made responsible for her death. He noted that Mineikas had said he was sick with guilt during a garda interview but said little or no remorse had been shown by the four, apart from apologies in court, which rang hollow. He imposed the maximum sentence and suspended the final two years in the case of Minekas, Dylis and O'Connor and the final two and a half years in the case of Pasiak, who had no previous convictions.

He said the conditions were that the three foreign men volunteer to return to their own counties on completion of their sentences and not return to this jurisdiction. 'I cannot deport them,' he explained. Senior counsel Patrick McCarthy, defending Pasiak, said the sentence was out of kilter with what would usually be imposed, and reflected a sentence for manslaughter, with which his client was never charged.

The judge said he could make his argument in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

' The maximum sentence is not half long enough in my view. There should be a maximum sentence of 20 years,' he said, describing the behaviour of the defendants as 'despicable'. All men then agreed to the conditions and signed €100 bonds.

Mr Justice White passed sentence only after hearing that the DPP was happy for him to do so. The judge had adjourned sentencing due to comments in a highly critical victim impact statement read in court last month. The DPP said that no right-minded person would think that the judge had been swayed by the statement, according to prosecuting senior counsel Mary Ellen Ring.

The statement had mentioned that people with convictions in their own countries should not be allowed to live here. The DPP said that he could not comment on how non-nationals might feel about this. ' That's a matter for the political,' she said. She also referred to a line from the victim impact statement, which read: 'God's law is an eye for an eye'.

' The DPP says the concept of an eye for an eye has no place in Irish sentencing law,' she said. ' We are not an Islamic country,' remarked the judge.

The French family did not wish to comment afterwards but a spokesman said they were happy with the sentences.

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