Nothing untoward about judge commenting on the prevalence of knife crime

Nothing untoward about judge commenting on the prevalence of knife crime

The court of appeal

A 51-year old man jailed for a “frenzied” knife attack on his step-daughter and her partner has lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence. 

Patrick McMorrow (51), of Caltragh Crescent, Sligo, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Patrice McMorrow and her partner Michael Harte at the Crozon Inn, in Sligo, on October 23rd 2016.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final two years suspended by Judge Keenan Johnson on June 25, 2018, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal yesterday (Friday). 

Giving judgment, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Patrick McMorrow was attending a post funeral gathering in the pub along with his partner, her daughter, Patrice, and her partner Michael, on the day in question. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said an argument took place and Patrick McMorrow was pushed to the ground. The two injured parties went to leave the premises but Patrick McMorrow followed them and launched a “violent, frenzied” attack with a knife. 

He said the Court of Appeal had seen CCTV footage of the incident which made for “very disturbing viewing”. 

Michael Harte was stabbed five times and “came within minutes of losing his fight for life” were it not for the “herculean” efforts of staff at Sligo Hospital, Mr Justice Birmingham said. He required blood transfusion, was treated in the intensive care unit and wasn’t discharged for two weeks. His left lung collapsed and his liver was lacerated. 

Patrice McMorrow was stabbed under her left armpit, puncturing the lung. A stab wound in that area would normally involve substantial risk to life. As it happened, though, the injury has not caused any long term disfigurement, the judge said. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said Patrick McMorrow had five previous convictions - four under the Road Traffic Act and one for what was described as a minor assault.

He had consumed 12 pints on the day in question and it was established that he had experienced alcohol problems all his life. 

The sentencing judge referred to the prevalence of knife crime in his area. Over the previous two weeks, Judge Johnson said, he had dealt with three such assaults and he wished to send a clear message out to those who arm themselves with knives that they can expect to be sent to jail. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said the judge’s comments were the subject of criticism in the Court of Appeal, in that his comments were indicative of an over emphasis on deterrence. 

Counsel for Patrick McMorrow, Michael Bowman SC, submitted that it was “crescendo sentencing” or the building up to delivery of an ever louder message, which was inappropriate. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said there was nothing untoward about the judge commenting on the frequency of knife crime. Nor was there anything untoward about the remark that those involved in such offences can expect to be dealt with severely. 

He said it could not realistically be contended that the headline sentence of 12 years was excessive in a situation where there were two victims, each of whom suffered life threatening injuries. He said the case could have fallen into the exceptional category for seriousness. 

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, said the overall sentence fell within the range available to the Circuit Court judge and the appeal was therefore dismissed. 

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