BY PETER DOYLE
THE jail term handed down to the man who brandished a large knife as he ‘encouraged violence’ outside a house party where Cameron Blair was stabbed to death has been increased after a successful appeal by the State.
Scott O’Connor (20) – whom the director of public prosecutions (DPP) described as the instigator of events outside the party – was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, with three years suspended after he had pleaded guilty in January last year at the Central Criminal Court to committing violent disorder at Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16th, 2020.
O’Connor, of Churchfield Square, Cork city, also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion, at the Central Criminal Court in January 2021.
The DPP later appealed the sentence imposed by Mr Justice David Keane on the grounds that the three-year suspended portion was ‘unduly lenient.’
Anne Rowland SC, for the DPP, had previously told the Court of Appeal that the sentence represented a ‘substantial departure from the norm, given the unusual and grave circumstances surrounding the case.’
In her judgement Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said it agreed with the DPP and was quashing O’Connor’s sentence. Noting that O’Connor had armed himself with a knife and encouraged ‘a situation of violence to develop,’ Ms Justice Kennedy stated that the respondent, who was 18 at the time, was not under any threat.
‘We observe that the occupants must have experienced pure terror in the face of such violence. These factors alone mean that his culpability is high,’ she added.
‘It is clear that the unfortunate deceased had no part in any violence, he simply tried to monitor the front door, and the judge [Mr Justice Keane] properly described his conduct as “steadfastly openhearted, [and] courteous”. That the events of the night led to his death is shocking and tragic.’
By reducing the suspension portion of the sentence from three years to two years, and thereby increasing O’Connor’s jail time by one year, Ms Justice Kennedy said the appellate court was striving to strike the right balance ‘between the penal objective of punishment and the competing desistance objective of rehabilitation of the offender.’
‘This is a finely balanced case … and we consider that the judge erred in suspending such a significant portion of the five-year term, resulting in an actual prison term of two years,’ she explained.
After judgment was delivered, Mr Justice Edwards extended the court’s condolences to members of Mr Blair’s family who were sitting in the public gallery.