By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Longer prison sentences are to be sought later this year for two men who were jailed for 14 years last month for the killing of Det. Garda Jerry McCabe after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The withdrawal of capital murder charges — carrying a mandatory 40-year sentence — against four men accused of the killing in the Special Criminal Court caused widespread outcry and the government subsequently announced new laws to combat the intimidation of witnesses.
Now the director of public prosecutions has decided to appeal the leniency of the sentences against Pearse McAuley, 34, of Strabane, Co. Tyrone, and Kevin Walsh, 42, of Patrickswell, Co. Limerick, in the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Sentences of up to 30 years can be imposed for manslaughter.
Sinn Fein has argued that the men should be released by next year under the prisoner amnesty scheme in the Northern Ireland peace agreement, but Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that it had always been made clear that the McCabe killing was a special case and that the men would serve their sentences.
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McCabe, who was 52, was a father of five. He was shot while on escort duty during an abortive robbery of a post office cash delivery van in Adare, Co. Limerick, in 1996.
Garda Representative Association spokesman P.J. Stone welcomed the DPP’s move and said he hoped the appeal court would increase the sentences. He said the GRA had written to the DPP because rank-and-file gardai were "incensed and outraged" about the sentences on the two men.
Lawyers for the DPP are to challenge the sentences on Walsh and McAuley on the basis of their central role in the killing and their previous convictions.
Walsh was the only one of the accused who did not take the opportunity to express remorse for the killing in the Special Criminal Court. He has a previous conviction for armed robbery.
McAuley has a previous firearms conviction and had been released early from Portlaoise Prison following the first IRA cease-fire. He is also wanted in Britain on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
The appeal is expected to be heard before three High Court judges before the courts rise for the summer recess in June.