Simon McGinley was sentenced to 21 years in jail today at the Central Criminal Court.  His crime was a horrific attack on an 86-year-old woman, who he raped after breaking into her house in the middle of the night.  21 years is an extraordinarily long sentence for rape in an Irish court but McGinley was no ordinary rapist.

He had appeared before the Central Criminal Court before and the crime he was accused of then caused the “C” case controversy when his 13-year-old victim, who had been taken into care after she became pregnant from the rape, had to apply to the courts to travel for an abortion.

Miss C was in the court today to see the man whose children she had once babysat, who had only been sentenced to six years for what he did to her twelve years ago, sentenced for this latest crime.

Through the sheer range in the ages of his victims, McGinley showed himself to be a dangerous predator who had shown no sign of reform.  Although he was sentenced to 21 years he will not serve the full term as Irish sentences include an automatic 25% remission as a carrot to encourage good behaviour in jail. But Mr Justice George Bermingham’s decision to hand down such a long sentence is definitely a step in the right direction.

Depressingly the six year sentence he was given for his earlier crime is more or less the norm for rape sentences in this country.  I’ve talked about this before on this blog and no doubt it will be a subject I return to as long as sentences for rapes here remain so pitifully short.  It’s worth noting that in the past, people who have raped children younger than 13 on numerous occassions have received sentences of a few years, or, as in the case of Philip Sullivan, have had  a weighty sentence reduced by the Court of Criminal Appeal in January this year.

McGinley has shown no remorse.  As he was brought out to the prison van past the waiting photographers today he turned to the cameras and said “I’m innocent.  I did not do this.”  This was in the face of over whelming DNA evidence.  It will be very interesting indeed to see how he fares on appeal.

If someone who has committed two such terrible crimes and continues to show no remorse or acknowledge what he has done does not warrant the life sentence, then how bad does a rape have to be to get it?  Getting a young teenager pregnant only warranted six years.  Isn’t it time that these sentences were looked at and minimum sentences introduced?  21 years was a good length but it shouldn’t be so rarely applied.  Rape is a serious enough crime to be tried in the Central Criminal Court – the sentences should reflect that.  Most rapists get less than people who are tried on certain drugs offences…in the Circuit Criminal Court.

With new legislation being passed through both houses of the Oireachtas recently that deals with “gangland” crime, surely they could have looked at an area of offending that has been needing reform for years.  Judges like Mr Justice Bermingham and Mr Justice Carney are attempting to hand down tougher sentences but they do tend to get reduced on appeal.  McGinley deserved his sentence but there are others who have been guilty of equally brutal crimes who have and will serve far fewer years.  Something will have to change.

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