Former justice minister Claire Sugden believes the “too lenient” sentence given to a woman who killed a pensioner in Greenisland shows why a review she announced last year must press ahead.
She expressed disappointment that the department she led does not appear to be moving with any urgency on the sentencing review she announced, despite the announcement having been made over a year ago.
She was speaking after the sentencing of 31-year-old Margaret Henderson-McCarroll, who was given a six-year sentence – only half of which will be served in prison – for the killing of 67-year-old Eddie Girvan.
Mr Girvan was stabbed, gagged and bound at his Greenisland home in January 2016.
Ms Sugden said the public “rightly” believes the sentence given to Henderson-McCarrll was “unduly lenient”.
Her view is shared by, amongst others, the parents of a teenager who was killed by a drunk driver in 2014. The parents of Enda Dolan, who was knocked down by a van and killed in Belfast three years ago, were upset by the sentence given to the driver of the van, which was later ruled “unduly lenient” by a judge and extended.
The Dolan family had worked with Ms Sugden while she was minister in order to have a review of sentencing put in place.
Ms Sugden said that the sentencing review must proceed even without an Executive in place.
Asked about the sentence given to Mr Girvan’s killer on Monday, she said: “I think that sentence was too lenient. I think sentencing, generally, needs to be looked at anyway.
“You could see on Monday that people, rightly so, felt that sentence was unduly lenient when a man lost his life.
“I’ve had conversations with families of victims of other offences – in one instance where their son’s life was taken and the sentence didn’t really seem to reflect the offence. I met with Peter Dolan and he has still been in contact with me since I was justice minister.
“What we have been talking about is a review of sentencing generally that was announced in July.”
She added: “That was meant to be an 18-month review so I would imagine within the next six months that should be coming to a conclusion – but I’m not confident that my former department has actually continued with the work on that.
“I am quite candid in saying that; it is very disappointing. It’s something we do need to look at.”