Bill no: L85/04
GARY MOORE &
MR JUSTICE DEENY
LONDONDERRY CROWN COURT
[SITTING AT COLERAINE]
THURSDAY, 6TH OCTOBER 2005
Transcript provided by:
Official Court Reporter
From FTR Digital Recording
MR JUSTICE DEENY: The murder of Mr Barney McLaughlin took place on 6th October 2003. It seems to me it is in the public interest to sentence both these prisoners today without any further delay as two years has passed since the crime ‑ that's not through the fault of anyone here.
Counsel for the Crown, Mr Weir QC, has opened the facts before the court today and I don't think it is necessary for me to repeat them at any length. It is clear that the late
Mr Barney McLaughlin was a wholly inoffensive and harmless and vulnerable individual. He had indeed clearly become friendly with one of the defendants Ronald Hazlett and had taken him into his home. He met an unspeakable and horrific end. That has been described to the court. The assault upon him by Gary Moore was brutal and sustained. The court must view such a crime with considerable gravity and dismay and deal with it accordingly and I will do so and do so today.
Firstly, with regard to Gary Moore, please stand up, I am going to sentence you with regard to these matters, if at the end of it you don't understand anything you may either ask me, as you are still a child in law, or you may take the opportunity of speaking to your solicitor and counsel afterwards. First of all, under Article 45(1) of the Criminal Justice Children's (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 you are in law a child and so though you have pleaded guilty to murder Parliament has provided the sentence that I should pass upon you is that you be detained during the pleasure of the Secretary of State in such place and under such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct. The institution that you are to be confined in is a matter for the Secretary of State. It is my duty further under Articles 2 and 5 of the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 to order that the release provisions under Article 6 of that Order shall apply to you after that part of your sentence has been served. The effect of that, Gary Moore, is that I now impose a minimum sentence which you must serve in the light of this terrible crime and at the end of it you will then become eligible for parole and at the end of it the persons appointed by Parliament under Articles 6(5) and 6(4) of the Life Sentence Review Order have to be satisfied, "that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm that you should be confined." So you are facing a very long period in one institution or another but your objective must be to co‑operate with the prison authorities in their various institutions so that you can satisfy the Commissioners in due course that it is no longer necessary to protect the public from serious harm by confining you.
Now the length of the minimum term is a difficult one to fix and Mr Adair has very properly drawn attention to the difficulties that have arisen in applying these provisions, correctly described I think as a minimum rather than by any other term. It is right to say that the courts in Northern Ireland have, the Court of Appeal in particular, interpreted the English practice direction which otherwise has been applied here, has interpreted it somewhat differently in the case of persons under 18. For my part I have sought to consider this matter in the light of all the material previously put before me and with the helpful oral remarks made in addition today which were consistent with the earlier written remarks and submissions and reports. I have sought to approach this in either of the ways suggested by the Court of Appeal in England or the Court of Appeal here and it seems to me that with either approach I end up with the same sentence. It does not therefore seem appropriate to me that I should venture to go further into resolving the differences of emphasis that perhaps may be thought to exist at the present time. It seems to me the preferable approach is that indicated, as I understand it, by our Court of Appeal of taking into account the gravity of the offence and then applying a reducing factor depending on the offender's age and maturity as it is put by Lord Carswell, LCJ as he then was in R‑v‑McCandless and R‑v‑Johnston.
Now there can be no doubt that the starting point here for an adult would clearly be the higher of the two starting points set down in the Practice Directions and in the reported cases and that seems to me indisputable. I must take that into account in satisfying myself that the sentence which I now impose is appropriate, "to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence having regard to the seriousness of the offence."
Mr Adair correctly says that there are, however, two substantial factors in your case and I accept that submission which I think could not be gainsaid and indeed which is not gainsaid by Mr Weir QC for the Crown. The first is your age, you were only 15 at the time of this offence, a boy in anyone's language as well as a child in law. It seems to me that a 15 year old is in a very different position even from a youth of 17 as you now are let alone a youth of 17 years and 11 months as in the Johnston case. One must cast one's mind back to what you were like at that time and to the level of responsibility that could be placed on a 15 year old. I have not hidden my surprise at the position that the life you then led had not come to the attention of the authorities. You recount to the probation officer and the psychologist that you were regularly abusing a whole range of drugs from the age of ten on, that you were also abusing alcohol. I consider that it is a factor to be taken into account.
Lord Bingham, in his helpful comments some years ago in these matters, thought that intoxication was a neutral matter. Some of the decisions of the Court of Appeal in England suggest that it is an aggravating factor. For my own part the taking of illegal drugs with alcohol by a fifteen year old would seem to me to point in the opposite direction. Somebody should have intervened to stop you doing this and to order your lifestyle better.
Secondly, you have pleaded guilty to this murder and on the earlier occasion the point I think was made to me, although not expressly reiterated today, that this was effectively the earliest opportunity at which you could plead guilty once your legal advisers could be fully informed about all relevant matters necessary for your defence. A plea of guilty is important not only because it shows some remorse on your part and your recognition of your terrible misdeed on this occasion but it avoids the stress of a trial to the witnesses and Mr Weir properly emphasises that in respect of the chief Crown witness. It also avoids a complete waste of public money that could be used in better ways. It is also right to say that it gives up the possibility that some mishap might befall the Crown case and you escape justice. Therefore it is lawful and proper in my duty to make a significant reduction in addition to your youth in respect of your plea of guilty.
Taking these facts together the order I make under the Life Sentences Order is one of ten years in custody as the appropriate period. That will run from the date on which you went into custody. I have already explained to you that thereafter you will be eligible for parole and no doubt will seek to satisfy the Commissioners that you can be safely released. You may sit down but remain in court.
Mr Weir, I just want to say two further things before leaving the defendant Gary Moore. It would not be right and I do not reach any conclusion about the lack of supervision or lack of observation of this youth's conduct before this terrible crime, but I do direct that the police officer in charge of the case visit the school and make such enquiries as are proper in the circumstances as to what their knowledge was and, depending on that state of knowledge, why they did not report this to the police or other authorities. He should, of course, report to his superior but I would like to see a copy of that report.
MR WEIR: Yes, my Lord.
MR JUSTICE DEENY: Secondly it is right I think to say with regard to this matter to express the highest commendation to Mr Dean Alexander McClelland and his colleagues from the Limavady fire station who clearly behaved in a highly professional and courageous manner on the occasion of this incident in venturing into this building when it was on fire.
MR WEIR: I will see your Lordship's comments in that regard are passed on.
MR JUSTICE DEENY: Indeed, thank you.
Ronald David Hazlett, you have pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Barney McLaughlin occasioning him actual bodily harm contrary to Section 47 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. You struck this helpless and inoffensive man on the nose without any provocation to yourself that anyone could consider remotely justified. You were present while he was assaulted by Gary Moore on a number of occasions. It is true that at one point that at the behest of Michelle Wright ‑ a person who also is worthy of the commendation of the court for her subsequent behaviour in this matter ‑ that at her behest you did stop Gary Moore but he then assaulted Mr McLaughlin further in your presence and you took no steps to restrain him although he had stopped when you restrained him the first time.
The deceased was a friend of yours, he had taken you into his home. You will have to live with your inaction on that night the rest of your life. This is a court of law, not a court of morals, and I accept the Crown case you were not present during the latter stages of the assault and I accept that you did offer to take Michelle Wright to the police though that was very much a poor second best to intervening yourself. The position is I can only sentence you in law for your actions and not your omissions on this occasion as it is not contended now that you counselled or procured Gary Moore to do this.
I note your record which counts against you and which I am obliged to take into account, although I note that the sentences in the last some ten years are of a minor character and consistent with the picture of somebody with a serious alcohol problem who at one stage was living rough.
As Mr Simpson properly says I should give credit for your plea of guilty which I do here. Nevertheless I consider a custodial sentence must be imposed but I consider in the light of your record that should be coupled with ongoing probation supervision after the period of custody. I have concluded that the proper order overall is one of 36 months with 20 months in custody and 16 months probation thereafter. Do you consent to this probation order being made? If you had not consented I would have sentenced you to 24 months in prison.