22 January 2006

Holohan parents to hit out at DPP

Sunday Times

THE parents of Robert Holohan are expected to criticise decisions the director of public prosecutions (DPP) took in relation to their son’s murder trial, following the sentencing of his killer this week.

The 11-year-old boy’s parents will complain that some material was not put before the jury in last month’s trial, after which Wayne O’Donoghue was convicted of manslaughter, but not murder. The Holohans now want that material to be made public.

It is understood that the evidence was deemed inadmissible by the DPP because it was inconclusive and could have prejudiced the case against O’Donoghue, leading to an unfair trial.

Majella Holohan, whose son was suffocated by O’Donoghue after a row
between the two “best friends”, is entitled to address the Central Criminal Court, sitting at Ennis, during Tuesday’s hearing. Judges in criminal cases have recently begun allowing families of victims to address the court prior to sentencing. If she takes this option it is unlikely she will be permitted to discuss any issues relating to the evidence in the case. She may however raise the issue at a press conference after the hearing.

Last January, the day after Robert was buried, O’Donoghue admitted to his father, and later to gardai, that he had accidentally killed the boy. He was charged with manslaughter and sent to prison to await trial. Last April, James Hamilton, the DPP, dropped the manslaughter indictment and brought a charge of murder. The upgrade to the more serious charge prompted speculation that gardai had secured evidence that would prove that O’Donoghue intended to kill the child. But nothing of this nature emerged during the trial, and O’Donoghue was found not guilty of murder and convicted of the lesser charge.

“Naturally, Robert’s parents are upset over his death,” said one senior officer who investigated the case. “But the decision to admit or
withhold evidence is not the domain of the gardai or the victims of crime and their families. What goes in and out is the decision of the DPP.”

The Holohans, who have two other young children, have consulted a lawyer in advance of Tuesday’s hearing before Paul Carney, the High Court judge who presided over the murder trial. The contents of the victim impact statement have not been disclosed to O’Donoghue’s legal team so far.

The Holohan family is also expected to discuss the case at a press conference after Tuesday’s hearing. Robert’s parents, who have not spoken in public since their son’s death, are seeking maximum publicity once the trial concludes. The couple, who have refused many requests for interviews, attempted to engage the services of a leading Dublin-based public relations consultant to co-ordinate a media strategy in the aftermath of Tuesday’s hearing.

The consultant, who is an adviser to Fianna Fail, declined to represent the family, who are expected to speak to a tabloid Sunday newspaper later this week. They are also due to appear on The Late Late Show on Friday.

Details of the post-mortem on Robert’s body will be revealed at an inquest into the youngster’s death next month. The evidence, which was not put before the jury for legal reasons, may be introduced at the inquest by Marie Cassidy, the state pathologist.

But detectives who investigated the killing say that although this is possible, it is unlikely the evidence will be read into the public record. The opening of the inquest was delayed until the conclusion of the trial.

The Holohans would join a long list of grieving parents who have criticised the manner in which their children’s killers were prosecuted. Two years ago Mary Murphy, the mother of Brian Murphy, a teenager who was killed outside a Dublin nightclub, said the victims of crime and their families had “no voice” in legal proceedings.

“Where is my baby in all of this?” she asked in a victim impact report
read out in court.

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