Northern Ireland news

Dessie O'Hare withdraws appeal against severity of sentence for falsely imprisoning family

Dessie O'Hare was jailed in 2019 by the Special Criminal Court for seven years

FORMER INLA member Dessie O'Hare, who was known as `the Border Fox', has withdrawn his appeal against the severity of his sentence for falsely imprisoning a family.

His barrister had suggested that he was being sentenced for the sins of the past.

He was referring to a kidnapping O'Hare carried out in the 1980s, for which he was sentenced to 40 years before being released early under The Good Friday Agreement.

The Court of Appeal today warned him of its powers, which include increasing as well as decreasing sentences. Court President Justice George Birmingham had previously indicated that O'Hare was unlikely to get an early release.

O'Hare of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh was jailed in 2019 by the Special Criminal Court for seven years for falsely imprisoning a family in their home and for leading a "disturbingly violent" attack on another man.

The 63-year-old admitted assaulting John Roche at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin in June, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.

O'Hare was jailed for three years for assaulting Mr Roche and 10 years with the final three years suspended for the rest of his life for falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne. The sentences are running concurrently.

Justice Tony Hunt said at the time that the violent side of O'Hare's personality was not in remission and that his threat to society had "not completely abated". The judge stressed that O'Hare was "an organiser and high-level participant" in the incident and said that the court did not accept that the offending was "isolated" even though he had applied himself positively to some aspects of his life in the past 13 years.

O'Hare appealed the severity of his sentence to the Court of Appeal on Thursday. A previous appeal hearing last year was adjourned after O'Hare dismissed his lawyers.


However, before his appeal was opened, Justice Birmingham addressed his barrister, Dominic McGinn SC.

He noted that there had been a directly relevant previous conviction with a sentence of 40 years.

"He was released under the Good Friday Agreement and what does he do? He reoffends," he remarked.

Mr McGinn said the previous offending was "some decades old and they were in a particular context, which I think was reflected by the Good Friday Agreement".

"In many ways, it could be said he has suffered in relation to that, and that the court in this instance placed too much emphasis on it, effectively sentencing Mr O'Hare for the sins of the past, not for the sins of the present."

Justice Birmingham told him he was free to go ahead with the appeal.

"It isn't obvious that the Special Criminal Court was overly severe and it appears an argument could be made that he wasn't a candidate for a suspended sentence,” he continued.

The court rose to give Mr McGinn time to consult with his client. When it resumed, he said Mr O'Hare had instructed him to withdraw the appeal.

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