‘I am appalled’ – Are lenient sentences putting the courts out of step with society?

"I don't understand the courts" - Are lenient sentences putting the justice system out of step with society?

10.17 21 Jun 2024

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‘I am appalled’ – Are lenient...

‘I am appalled’ – Are lenient sentences putting the courts out of step with society?


10.17 21 Jun 2024

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Lenient sentences risk putting Ireland's courts out of step with society, Ciara Kelly has warned.

She was speaking after a serving Irish soldier was handed a suspended sentence for beating a woman unconscious in the street before bragging about it on social media.

22-year-old Cathal Crotty of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, County Clare walked free from Limerick Circuit Criminal Court after he was handed a three-year suspended sentence yesterday.


The court heard Crotty initially tried to claim the victim, 24-year-old Natasha O'Brien, had instigated the incident on O’Connell Street in Limerick on May 29th, 2022 – but when Gardaí showed him CCTV footage, he admitted his guilt.

Ms O'Brien sustained a broken nose, bruising, nightmares and panic attacks after the unprovoked attack.

Hours after the attack, Mr Crotty messaged friends on Snapchat with the words, "Two to put her down, two to put her out."

Delivering his sentence yesterday, Judge Tom O'Donnell said Crotty's actions were "utterly appalling", but said he had "no doubt" that if he imposed an immediate jail sentence, the 22-year-old’s army career would be “over".


On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ciara Kelly said she was “appalled”

“I read this with genuine anger on the part of the victim because, I think, Natasha O'Brien was minding her own business," she said.

“She was doing nothing; she was walking home, she was doing entirely normal things that any woman in the country could be doing and then this unprovoked attack by this 22-year-old serving - continuing to serve - soldier occurred.

“He could have killed her.

“I mean, you punch someone hard enough to knock them out, you can actually kill them.”


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She said she no longer understands the courts.

“I don't understand how, in a country where, I think, people genuinely feel that there is too much social disorder, too much anti-social behaviour, that the courts aren't taking things seriously enough.

“The courts are supposed to represent us in some way. I mean, they're not elected but what I mean is, they're supposed to represent justice as society sees it.

“I don't think justice has been served here. I don't think many people believe justice has been served here.

“This young woman was beaten unconscious. This young woman suffered horrible physical injuries. She lost her job afterwards because she was affected long-term after the assault – she wasn't really functional, all those kinds of things.

“At what point do we say a slap on the wrist and, ‘Go on now and behave yourself,’ to the person who perpetrates a crime like this isn't enough?

“I don't understand it. I think any right-minded person thinks that you go out and you half beat asunder somebody on the street in an unprovoked attack, you deserve, when you are found guilty, to be punished and sent to prison.”

"Does not sit well"

Crotty has not given an explanation for the assault but the court heard it appears he lashed out at Ms O’Brien after she ‘politely’ asked him to stop using homophobic slurs.

Fellow presenter Jonathan Healy noted that the sentence could put other people off standing up for others.

“What worries me is that people who are listening to this right now - parents of young people, young people themselves - if you go out tonight and you stop somebody from using a homophobic slur on a group, if you stand up as a good citizen, intervene and you get knocked to the ground and you get knocked unconscious, the guy - and it's inevitably a guy - who does it can walk free in court,” he said.

“That does not sit well with me.”

Speaking after the hearing yesterday, Ms O'Brien criticised the sentence, saying she felt "there was no true regard given for the seriousness of his violent crimes, nor the lifelong trauma I am now forced to suffer".

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