Man jailed for the shooting of Melanie McCarthy McNamara has sentence cut

CourtsBy Sunday World
Melanie McCarthy McNamara
Melanie McCarthy McNamara

A man jailed for the shooting of Melanie McCarthy McNamara in Tallaght four years ago has had his 20 year jail term cut to 17-and-a-half on appeal.

Keith Hall (26), of Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght, had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of 16-year-old Melanie, who was shot dead as she sat in a car with two others in Tallaght on February 8 2012.

His manslaughter plea was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions at the Central Criminal Court and he was subsequently sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by Mr Justice Paul Carney on July 31 2013.

Hall successfully appealed his sentence today on grounds that the sentencing judge either ignored or gave insufficient weight to various mitigating factors and it was “utterly unknown” how the figure of 20 years was arrived at.

The Court of Appeal quashed his sentence, reimposed 20 years as the headline figure and suspended the final two-and-a-half years.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the sentencing judge erred in ostensibly failing to take account of the mitigaiting factors.

The judge had said he was taking Hall's guilty plea into account but it was impossible to discern how much allowance was actually given. The Court of Appeal was doubtful that it was sufficiently taken into account, Mr Justice Mahon said.

His plea should have been afforded greater recognition and some further modest allowance should have been given for his drug addiction and dysfunctional background.

Furthermore, the sentencing judge ought to have given greater consideration to the prospect of rehabilitation in the interest of Hall himself and society in general.

Hall would not have access to drugs while serving a lengthy prison sentence and would have a real opportunity to cure himself. He also had strong family support and was genuinely remorseful which all pointed to, at least, the possibility of rehabilitation, the judgdment stated.

Mr Justice Mahon said the failure to clearly identify the extent to which allowance was made for mitigating factors represented a departure from best practice.

He said it was important that sentencing judges set out clearly, and in sufficient detail, the reasons for their decisions so that those being sentenced, victims and the general public can understand the basis for sentences.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would quash the sentence, reimpose 20 years as the headline figure and suspend the final two-and-a-half years.

Hall was required to enter into his own bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the suspended period of his sentence. When asked if he undertook to be so bound he said: “I do, yeah”.

Giving background, Mr Justice Mahon said Ms McNamara was sitting in a parked car with two friends at Brookview Way in Tallaght on the night of February 8, 2012

A black jeep pulled up alongside the car and a shotgun was discharged from the driver's seat hitting Ms McNamara in the head.

She was immediately taken to Tallaght Hospital but was pronounced dead soon after.

Hall was not directly involved in the shooting of Ms McNamara but assisted to a significant extent in events both prior to and subsequent to the shooting.

Earlier in the evening he agreed with others to throw a rock at a particular house in Tallaght to entice people out to facilitate their shooting, the judgment stated.

Hall accepted he knew these people were to be shot on leaving the house.

His involvement was substantial, the judgment stated, and he was fortunate not to face a murder trial.

The decision to accept his guilty plea to manslaughter was a pragamatic one having regard to possible legal issues which may have arisen had he been tried for murder, the judgment stated.

Hall had a dysfunctional background and had had addiction problems for a number of years. He had taken drugs on the evening in question and was known to gardaí to have a serious drug problem.

He had 111 previous conviction involving burglary, theft and possession of drugs for sale or supply.

His remorse was accepted by the investigating gardaí as being genuine, the judgment stated.

Moving his appeal in December, Hall's barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, submitted that on any reading of the sentencing judge's remarks, it was impossible to know what discount, if any, was given for Hall's admissions, remorse, his young age and guilty plea.

None of the gardaí suggested that Hall was anything but extremely remorseful, Ms Biggs said.

He had not engaged with the gardaí for some sort of self serving purpose and it appeared to have been given very little weight by the sentencing judge, counsel submitted.

Without his admissions, she said, it would have been impossible for the Director to prosecute.

Ms Biggs said the judge's remarks that Hall would have had to have been 'an automotan' to have no remorse for what he did, was “surpising” given Mr Justice Carney's experience.

The court heard that Hall was on crack cocaine and benzodiazepines on the day in question.

By Ruaidhrí Giblin