PSNI praises prison term of just six months given to man who knifed mum repeatedly in the neck

Fresh questions are being asked about the judgement of senior PSNI personnel after the force warmly hailed a mere six-month jail term given to a man who repeatedly knifed his own mother in the neck.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 8:48 am
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 10:42 am
Gavin Robinson has questioned the PSNI’s handling of the affair, saying the jail term is "yet again an inadequate sentence" from the courts

The story revolves around the conviction of Robert Gannon, who was sentenced last week by Londonderry Crown Court over an incident which took place on July 6 last year.

According to the PSNI, the victim was in her home when Gannon began “stabbing her multiple times to her neck area” with a knife.

The PSNI account continues: “The victim, covered in blood, fled her home and reported the incident to a witness who then phoned police.

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“When police attended, Robert Gannon armed himself with a hammer before handing himself over.”

A prior hearing was told Gannon gave “no comment” answers to police, and just grinned through interviews.

Despite all of that, the very same PSNI statement says its detectives have “welcomed the sentencing” adding: “[We] hope this sentencing sends out a clear message to anyone who thinks they can get away with this type of crime.

“We will work tirelessly to bring offenders before the courts so that victims receive the justice they deserve.”

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said police should be “slamming” the sentence, not “celebrating” it.

All this comes at amid a crisis of confidence in NI policing, with claims that the PSNI is out of touch with the real concerns of the public, particularly unionists.

VICTIM HAS SINCE DIED:

It was put to the PSNI that the sentence is extremely lenient. It replied: “We have nothing further to add.”

The News Letter contacted the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) too, and put the same claim of leniency to them.

The PPS were also asked why Gannon wasn’t charged with attempted murder, given the nature of the attack.

They responded: “The charges were determined following a through consideration of all the available evidence and facts of the case.

“The victim didn’t make any statement of complaint to police and the prosecution case was based primarily on the evidence of police officers who attended the scene, footage recorded on police body worn video and medical evidence.

“The victim regrettably died before the trial, for reasons unrelated to this assault.”

The News Letter understands the PPS may be considering if the sentence can be appealed.

Gannon, aged 34 of Dunvale Close in north west Londonderry was charged under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, on two counts: one of wounding, another of wounding with intent for GBH. He admitted the first and pleaded not guilty to the second (it was “left on the books”)

‘COMMUNITY SUPERVISION MAY REHABILITATE HIM’:

The jail term was handed down by Judge Babington, Recorder of Londonderry.

In response to the idea that the sentence is too short, the Lord Chief Justice’s office (representing NI’s judiciary) said “in calculating the appropriate sentence for the offence, the judge will have considered a range of factors specific to that case including seriousness of the offence, the offender’s previous convictions, aggravating and mitigating factors, whether the offender pleaded guilty”.

It also said judges consider “the relevant law, including the maximum sentence which the court can impose and any sentencing guidelines”.

And on this specific case said, the Lord Chief Justice’s office added the judge had said: “The pre-sentence report is concerned about the risk the defendant may present, but at the same time it is clear that probation feel a period of intense community-based supervision may both protect the public, and perhaps rehabilitate the defendant.

“This is one of those rare cases where it is abundantly clear that if possible there should be a licence period of at least 18 months.”

DUP home affairs spokesman Mr Robinson, a barrister, told the News Letter the term is “yet again an inadequate sentence” from the courts, adding: “A quick glance at the facts suggests it could have been much worse... Rehabilitation is hugely important. But the PSNI should be slamming the leniency, not celebrating it as some apparent victory.”

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