(Jim Doyle and Fiona Doyle (above) and Fiona’s father Patrick O Brien, who begins a three-year prison term this afternoon. The sentencing judge, Paul Carney has admitted he was wrong and insensitive to let O Brien walk free from Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Monday).
1. What was overturned today was not the sentence of 12 years (with 9 suspended) imposed by Judge Carney on Patrick O’Brien, but the related decision to grant Mr O’Brien bail pending his appeal against this sentence.
2. The rules in relation to the granting of bail pending appeal were laid down by the Supreme Court in DPP V Corbally, and contemplate the granting of bail by the Court of Criminal Appeal.
3. It appears that in deciding to grant bail Judge Carney may have been influenced by the belief that the sentence imposed by him was likely to be overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal as too harsh, given Mr O’Brien’s state of health and previous Court of Criminal Appeal decisions. He said that he wanted to get the Court of Criminal Appeal’s view on the correctness of this sentence immediately and as soon as possible.
4. Today’s decision by Judge Carney to revoke the bail granted by him is also unusual. Revoking bail normally only occurs if an accused breaches the conditions of their bail. In this case the argument put forward by the DPP in seeking to have bail revoked, which appears to have been accepted by Judge Carney, seems to have been that only the Court of Criminal Appeal had jurisdiction to grant leave to appeal and consequent bail.
5. Whether in the context of bail or otherwise, it is extremely rare for a judge to reverse their own ruling; normally this is a matter for an appeal court.
6. It remains to be seen what view the Court of Criminal Appeal will take on the question of bail pending appeal, and the undue harshness (or, in the event the DPP appeals, undue leniency) of the sentence imposed by Judge Carney, which would involve Mr O’Brien serving three years in jail.
Earlier: “Procedurally Confused”
(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)