Outrage at ‘lenient’ sentences

MAYOR of Kilkenny Sean O hArgain has voiced his ‘shock and outrage’ at two sentences imposed at Kilkenny Circuit Court on Friday on two separate attacks on elderly women in the city last year.

MAYOR of Kilkenny Sean O hArgain has voiced his ‘shock and outrage’ at two sentences imposed at Kilkenny Circuit Court on Friday on two separate attacks on elderly women in the city last year.

“I am taken aback by the leniency of these sentences. These crimes shocked the people of Kilkenny to the core and the vast majority of ordinary people will find both these sentences disturbing. For both families it is deeply upsetting,” he said.

There was an outpouring of rage in the city last July when pensioner Mary Nolan was attacked and robbed walking to her home in broad daylight. Tragically the 86-year-old, who never regained consciousness after the attack, died two months later.

At Kilkenny Circuit Court on Friday Mariusz Chelstowski of no fixed abode appeared before Judge Alice Doyle. He had previously pleaded guilty to robbing Mrs Nolan yards from her home at College View near the centre of the city on July 11.

The court heard the defendant had followed Mrs Nolan on the morning in question. Mrs Nolan had attended Mass in The Friary on Friary Street and had then went to the AIB bank on High Street where she withdrew €200 to pay her carer. The defendant followed her up High Street on to Friary Street and attacked her from behind at Walkin Street, just yards from her home. He pulled her to the ground and stole her purse and ran from the scene. A witness contacted gardai with a description of the attacker and gardai observed him at James Green. He was arrested on suspicion of robbery and during a preliminary search, Mrs’ Nolan’s purse was found on him. Money was also found in the defendant’s underpants.

Gardai then attended to Mary Nolan who had been brought back to her home and was being cared for by a neighbour. Evidence was given that Mrs Nolan had a bump on her head which she sustained in the robbery. An ambulance was called and she was brought to St Luke’s Hospital where she remained until her death on September 15. The court heard that Mrs Nolan never fully regained consciousness following the robbery.

Chelstowski, who has been in custody since his arrest has a number of previous convictions. Judge Doyle told the court that the appropriate sentence in the case was six years, but considering the mitigating factors including an early plea that this was reduced to two years. She ordered that the last six months be suspended on condition that on his release he return to his native Poland immediately and not return to Ireland for three years. She backdated the sentence to the date of his arrest on July 11 which means that the defendant will serve less than a year in prison.

In a separate case on the same day Liam Foley, Old Road, Graignamanagh was sentenced to three years for robbery at Johns Church on October 4, 2011. During the robbery the injured party, an elderly woman broke her hip. Foley is currently serving a seven year sentence imposed last month for an aggravated burglary on a pensioner at his home. This means that Foley will serve no extra time behind bars for the St Johns Church robbery.

On Friday Foley was also convicted of two counts of theft from his parent’s home on November 9 and 26, 2011. They sentences are to run concurrently to each other but consecutively to the seven-year sentence he is presently serving. Therefore, he will serve one year after the seven-year sentence is completed.

The Mayor also called for an examination of concurrent sentencing which allows sentences to run at the same time. “I am asking the Minister for Justice to have a serious look at mandatory sentencing in particular to assaults on the elderly. Both of these men should be out of circulation for as long as possible. I expect public outrage at the leniency of the sentences and it raises serious questions especially as attacks on the elderly are more prevalent nowadays. Both attacks were cowardly attacks on vulnerable people and we need to do whatever it takes to make our city saft and to protect our citizens. These sentences send an appalling message and while I am not part of the hang and flog brigade I do believe that our judiciary needs to send out a strong message. I respect the independence of the judiciary but I feel that mandatory sentencing in these types of crime needs to be urgently looked at,” he added.