Writer and Author

Revisiting a Familiar Case

Finn Colclough will get out of jail two years sooner than he was expecting after today.  He had appealed his ten year sentence for the manslaughter of Sean Nolan just before Christmas.  Today he learned he had been successful.  The three judge Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Judge Paul Carney should have taken into the account that Finn would have willingly pleaded guilty to manslaughter when deciding on sentence.

Out of all the trials I’ve covered in my time down in the Criminal Courts the Colclough trial was one of the most tragic.  Finn had been celebrating the end of the school term, out with his family for a 21st birthday part.  He was only 17.

Sean Nolan was celebrating the end of secondary school. out with friends.  He was searching for a girl he knew Sara, in the Waterloo Road area of Dublin 4 when he bumped into Finn and 2 friends.  It was around 4 in the morning.

There was a misunderstanding, Sean and his friends were looking for a corkscrew to open the bottle of wine they had bought on the way.  Finn and his friends got scared when the older boys shouted from the road in their quest.

Finn came running out with 2 knives. Sean stepped forward.  They struggled.  Sean was fatally stabbed.  It was a case of almost breathtaking tragedy.  One that had no sense to it, no logic.

I’ve written at length on the case here in the past so I’m not going to revisit now.  I will say that in light of other manslaughter sentences Finn Colclough’s was on the long side.  The fact that ten years doesn’t seem long for taking someone’s like doesn’t come into it, these are the sentences the court hands down for manslaughter.  I’m not surprised that the CCA decided as they did and I shall be interested to read their ruling at a later date.

Speaking outside the new courthouse today Sean’s mother Charlotte Nolan said that she was happy the legal process was over and that the ten year sentence still stood.

She also called for urgent changes in legislation to tackle what she referred to as the “epidemic of knife crime”.  She’s not alone in this.  I’ve heard several judges including Paul Carney speak out about the prevalence of knife crime primarily among the young men in our society.  It’s a subject that we will hear of again, probably the next time a young life is tragically lost after a night of drinking. You may hear about, you may not.  Unfortunately there are so many cases like that going through the courts and not all of them have the handy hook of an exclusive address.


  1. mark

    the murdering piece of scum should have went down for 1st degree murder,just because the little scumbag came from a wealthy family he got off lightly,he murdered an innocent man in cold blood,it was an unprovoked attack,he ran out of his house with a knife and stabbed a man who wasnt even in the mans property.If he felt threatened he could have rang the gards, its murder,our justice system is a joke.

  2. Abigail

    “Mark”, Colclough was found not guilty of murder by a jury who instead found him guilty of manslaughter. They listened to the evidence put forward by the prosecution and still did not find murder. In my experience there is very little difference between the sentences handed down to people from better off areas compared to those from less well off areas. The length of sentence is dependent on previous convictions, the facts of the case and any mitigating factors. If the judge doesn’t get it right then the sentence will be changed by the Court of Criminal Appeal, as happened with Colclough.
    Also we don’t have a crime of 1st degree murder in this country. I’ve written extensively on this blog about the facts of this case so I’m not going to go into them again. For the most part the justice system here works pretty well although I understand that if you are personally involved in a case nothing but a murder verdict will be satisfactory. From an outsiders point of view having watched every day of the trial I think the manslaughter sentence was probably the fairest when looking at all the evidence presented by both sides. I don’t try the cases, I merely watch them and write about what I see here.

  3. mark

    how is it manslaughter??manslaughter is when you are in a fight and unintentionally kill some1,or when some1 dies at your hand by carelessness,the scumbag got a knife and went for an unarmed man in cold blood,thats murder,im not involved in the case either but you cant argue it,if colclough was from the ballymun flats the key would have been thrown away. They also said in court he had ocd and dyslexia—like that has 0 revelance or connection to killing some1 in cold blood,he should not have got manslughter,this was no accident,this was unprovoked murder,he had no excuse,he took the law into his pown hands,the little scumbag should have been hung. Also how dare you say ‘manslaughter sentence was probably the fairest when looking at all the evidence presented by both sides.’—the boys sean nolan were with were looking for a bottle opener,they behaved in no threatening manner,they weren’t on colcloughs property,they posed zero threat and if they did colclough could have locked his door and rang the gards,it was his familys wealth that saved the piece lof scum,i hope he burns in hell

    • Abigail

      You are of course entitled to your opinion but it might be an idea if you actually looked up the legal definitions under Irish law for both manslaughter and murder. I’ve covered dozens of trials and according to everything I’ve seen this was a clear manslaughter verdict. As I’ve said before I don’t particularly want to revisit the facts but the post mortem evidence was that the wounds on Sean Nolan were consistent with the blades being held rigid and essentially going in accidentally. There was no evidence of any major force being used. This was obviously satisfied the jury who found Colclough guilty of manslaughter. As I’ve said before it was a particularly tragic case but you have to look at all the facts. I know it’s also a trial that has provoked extremely violent opinions on either side but I’m simply being objective. I will unapprove your comments if you continue to use abusive language. You are dangerously close to being defamatory.

  4. Real Deal

    Love this stuff and periodically revisit. Apparently you’ve gone tabloid with cries of “scumbag” and bad grammar. Ah well…
    This Colclough case is interesting from an academic point of view as it does bring out the famous North and South Dublin divide. From what I’ve read (and revised for this post) the whole episode seems very unfortunate. On the face of it a frightened, somewhat inadequate young man reacted very stupidly to boorish behaviour and it all went “tits up”. Another poor young man died and the person responsible becomes a bete noir.
    However, the post from Mark reminds me why this case is actually interesting. NOT that I’m saying the fact that a young lad died is never “interesting” but it all blurs….
    What I’m getting at is the lack of understanding re the sentencing procedure AND the onus of proof/reasonable doubt on the jury. Was there an intention? Were there extenuating circumstances? I think the jury in the Finn Colclough trial had a very difficult job to do.
    But the fact that it was difficult to unravel the actual events from the emotion of the moment shouldn’t excuse people like Mark from lazy thinking. Murder is a particularly difficult thing to prove and in the Colclough case I can’t see any way a murder verdict was possible. Irrespective of what Mark may think, the psychological demeanour of the accused is always of major importance. How many mentally impaired people are put to death on Death Row in America – would he say that this was right? (I don’t really care – rhetorical question)
    Nevertheless we have a situation of a frightened inadequate and a drunken, allegedly threatening person. The reactions were all wrong and someone needlessly died. The fact that it happened in a “posh” neighbourhood and not “Ballymun” have nothing to do with the verdict. It suits some people with a chip on their shoulder to feel vicariously “hard done by” – this doesn’t bear out actual experience in the real world. Cases are judged on their merits and each one has its own idiosyncrasies. The point I finally get to is that the justice system separates us from the rabble. Calling for a person to be hung is all very well but unfortunately emotional. It also smacks of a double standard as Mark’s desire for the death penalty seems to hinge on the social background of the accused. Justice is said to be blind for a reason. It is an aspiration and guiding principle.
    In this case there is no reason (word used advisedly) to assume the verdict or sentence were motivated by social factors.
    More consideration and thought before posting…please?
    Regards and Thanks,

  5. mark

    you people are such hypocrites,if it was your son or your brother or your friend you would see my view

  6. Real Deal

    Sorry Mark. I’m not involved in the case and may come across as “hypocritical” but this is inevitable. Fact of life.

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