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deliberately armed Teen who made threats with knife on night of Cameron Blair murder gets two years detention

The now 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor also punched a girl at the party in the face

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Cameron Blair

Cameron Blair

Cameron Blair

A teenage boy who punched a girl and threatened others with a butter knife outside a house party where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered has been sentenced to two years detention and two years supervision in his community.

Sentencing the now 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, at the Central Criminal Court today, Mr Justice David Keane said the boy "deliberately armed" himself with a butter knife and "deliberately threatened" others at the party that night.

"His threats were calculated and deliberate," he added.

The judge said the actions by the juvenile, who today sat in the dock alongside his mother, of striking a girl at the party in the face with his fist was "unprovoked".

Referring to the probation report, the judge said his behaviour on the night was fuelled by immaturity, bravado, a perceived invincibility as well as a lack of consequential thinking.

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Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Reading from the report, Mr Justice Keane noted that the boy clearly did not appreciate the gravity of the offence and the impact it had on others nor did he see how his behaviour "fuelled and contributed" to the death of a young man.

Probation services found that he presented somewhat disconnected from the actual offence and its consequences, he said.

Peer pressure, the judge said, was plainly a factor in this event as he was socialising with an older influential peer group at the time. The juvenile presented as an impressionable and easily led young person with a lack of emotional development who lacked maturity, the court heard.

At the boy's sentence hearing earlier this month, the judge was told that the boy had become "a pariah" in his community and the incident has had a "monumental effect" on him. His family also had to "swap" homes with the boy's grandparents "to keep him out of trouble".

The juvenile's defence counsel, Timothy O'Leary SC with Alan O'Dwyer BL, had asked Mr Justice Keane to give the boy "a chance" saying: "What is the actual purpose of putting him in jail when he has a chance to be a functioning person; a mechanic".

Counsel also said that his client had "got caught up in this awful maelstrom" which had led to the "tragic death" of Cameron Blair. 

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Cameron's parents Kathy and Noel Blair and younger brother Alan were supported in the courtroom today by several other extended family members.

Cameron was a native of Ballinascarthy in west Cork and a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

He died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16, 2020 after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.

The boy in today's case went on trial on May 28 charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16, 2020.

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Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

He had been on trial at the Central Criminal Court for almost three weeks before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided not to continue with the charge on June 16.

Today, the DPP entered a nolle prosequi against the teenager meaning that the State will not be proceeding with the charge of producing a knife against the juvenile.

The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident, had pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.

Before counsel for the State, John Fitzgerald SC, opened the case in May, the boy pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person's safety at the said place on the same occasion.

The maximum sentence for violent disorder is ten years in prison.

The DPP said it was not proceeding with the count of possession of a knife in circumstances where the accused accepted he was in possession of a butter knife during the course of events on the evening.

It was the defence contention during the trial that two boys out of a group of three who had gathered outside the house were in possession of a knife on the night but not the defendant in this case.

One of the boys has admitted murdering Cameron and another has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to the production of a knife.

However, it was the State's case that each of the three boys had a knife on the night.

Before delivering the sentence today, Mr Justice Keane said he was entitled to have regard to the evidence in the trial of the boy having produced a knife that night.

Referring to the party, the judge said one of the students had approached another youth, Scott O'Connor, to see if he could get some weed or cannabis. The then 14-year-old boy had involved himself in the weighing out of the additional weed before the disagreement occurred.

The three youths had "unaccountably" armed themselves with knives on the knife and the boy had armed himself with a butter knife, he continued.

The judge said the boy was reluctant to leave the party and claimed he had left his phone charger inside. "He was given another one but that did nothing to pacify him," he added.

Another student, the judge said, had heard the boy tell another student that he "was going to shank him". After leaving the house, the three youths attempted to re-enter the party and a confrontation developed.

One young woman hearing a large commotion outside came out to see what was going on and the boy came towards her and struck her in the left eye with his fist, he said.

The judge said six students had testified at trial that they saw the juvenile holding a knife on the night. "For the purpose of the plea I'm assuming the knife was a butter knife," he said, adding that the other two youths had produced much larger knives.

Mr Justice Keane said the boy and another youth had made several attempts to push by Cameron, when he was standing in the doorway. The boy was involved with the first scuffle at the door and the whole incident was plainly a terrifying one for the party goers, he commented.

The violent disorder, which the juvenile chose to participate in that night, would cause any person of reasonable firmness to have feared for their safety, he said.

When Cameron was stabbed, the boy stood motionless in apparent shock, ran and discarded the butter knife a short distance from the house, he said. He was later spotted across the road from the scene of the crime and apprehended after a short chase, he said.

The act occurred on a public street and the boy persisted in the confrontation for five minutes, when it was open to him to walk away, he said. "Worse, he struck a young woman in the face with his fist, which was unprovoked," said the judge.

There was clearly a common purpose, he said, on behalf of the boy and his two friends to threaten those in the house. "I accept there was no intention to kill or cause serious harm on his part but it cannot be dealt with in a vacuum.

There is no doubt that the boy's actions also contributed significantly to the febrile atmosphere of which the murder of Cameron occurred," he continued.

The aggravating factors in the case included the level of fear created, the range of persons affected by that fear who had fled for their lives and that the boy never attempted to offer any assistance to Cameron and left the scene.

"He fled once again before being recognised at the scene so he had not come back to offer assistance or face the music," he said.

In mitigation, he noted the boy's age, his guilty plea to violent disorder and lack of previous convictions. The court heard he had no previous convictions but was involved with the Garda's Juvenile Liaison Service on four occasions.

Whilst the boy expressed his sorrow to probation services, the judge said the probation report records his purported recollection and the minimisation of his role and actions on the night "which I cannot accept".

The judge stated that the boy only had "a fragmented memory" of what occurred, he cannot recall producing the butter knife, said he did not threaten to shank anyone and said he hit the young woman because he felt intimidated and scared.

The juvenile had been described by his school as disruptive in the classroom and had been suspended on several occasions. There was also a lack of appropriate parental supervision of the juvenile in place at the time, he said. He was found to be at moderate risk of reoffending in the next 12 months.

Mr Justice Keane said the headline sentence had to have a custodial element to it due to the gravity of the case and he set it at six years.

Taking into account the mitigation factors, the judge reduced the headline sentence of six years detention to four years and said he would make a detention and supervision order for that period with "half in detention and half in supervision in the community".

He sentenced him to two years detention and ordered him to submit to the supervision of the Probation Service for the other two years.

The judge adjourned the finalisation of the sentence until next week to see if enquiries could be made as to whether there was a place available for the boy in Oberstown Children Detention Campus. The matter was listed for mention next Friday, when the judge is sitting in the Central Criminal Court in Waterford.

Finally, the judge expressed his sympathies to Cameron's family on the "irreplaceable loss of an exemplary young man".

In April 2020, a teenage boy, then aged 17, who murdered Cameron by plunging a knife into his neck, received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032. The boy, who could not be named because he was a minor, pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron on Bandon Road in Co Cork on January 16, 2020.

Scott O'Connor (19), of Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork who brandished a knife outside the house party was jailed for two years. He had pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder at Bandon Road in Cork on January 16. He has also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion.

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