Friday, February 5, 2010

Irish ad exec sentenced to 7 years for manslaughter of wife


Eamonn Lillis has been sentenced to six years and 11 months in jail for the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley at their home in Howth, Co Dublin. The 52-year-old TV advertising director was convicted last Friday of the manslaughter of his wife on December 15th, 2008, at their home on Windgate Road.

After over nine hours of deliberations, the jury found Lillis not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. It said the State had failed to prove intent.

At the Central Criminal Court this morning, Mr Justice Barry White said the appropriate sentence for the offence would be 10 years but, having considered yesterday’s statements to the sentencing hearing, he was jailing Lillis for six years and 11 months. He noted that Lillis had already spent three weeks in custody last year while awaiting bail. The sentence runs from yesterday.

In his statement to the court, Mr Justice White said the media have shown "little or no respect" for the dignity of the Cawley family over the course of the trial and called for their privacy to be respected. Speaking to Lillis, he said: "Your expression of remorse rings hollow to me and I consider it to be self-serving in light of the circumstances of the case."

The judge said it was clear from the verdict the jury rejected Lillis's contention he had no responsibility for his wife's death.

Mr Justice Barry White said Lillis at least "had the decency" to call emergency services and attempt to resuscitate his wife. "That is the only decent act you committed on that morning." The judge said Lillis then persisted to lie to gardaĆ­ to conceal his own involvement.

"It is clear to me from the victim impact statement presented by Susanna Cawley that your behaviour has had a devastating effect on people of all ages," Mr Justice White added. “From your father-in-law, who is some 80 years of age, down to your own daughter, who is 17 years of age.”

Mr Justice White said he took into account the terms handed to Wayne O’Donoghue and Linda Mulhall when considering sentencing. Mr O’Donoghue was jailed for four years for the manslaughter of schoolboy Robert Holohan in Co Cork in January, 2005. Mulhall received a 15-year sentence for the manslaughter Farah Swaleh Noor in 2005.

Members of the Cawley family, including Ms Cawley’s father James, sister Susanna and brother Chris, remained silent as the sentence was imposed. Lillis, who also showed no emotion, was led from the court to begin his sentence at Wheatfield Prison.

At a sometimes emotional hearing yesterday, the court was told that two victim impact statements had been presented, one by the couple's 17-year-old daughter and the second by Ms Cawley’s sister, Susanna.
Only the second was read to the court. In it, she made repeated references to Lillis, though only once mentioning him by name. She referred to the “treacherous lies”, which she said were “overwhelming”.

“The worst had to be the one Eamonn told us of the intruder and of Celine’s last moments, to my wonderful, honourable 80-year-old dad, when he alleged she pulled her fingers down his face. Whatever about the rest of us, Dad deserves to know the truth about the advantage that was taken of his total loyalty. The lack of remorse is also hard to credit despite 13 months of opportunity to at least apologise to [the 17-year-old daughter of Lillis’s and Celine Cawley] and my father. But no such apology has been forthcoming.”

In the statement, read by State prosecutor Mary Ellen Ring, Susanna Cawley also referred to the “tightrope” the family have been obliged to walk in their efforts to secure the financial and residential future for [the daughter].

“We are all here for her but we were and still are absolutely powerless. Every avenue we have tried to go down, we find that we have no legal entitlement.”

Speaking on behalf of Lillis, defence counsel Brendan Grehan said his client was “extremely sorry and regretful” for what had happened and for the lies he told, in particular to Ms Cawley’s family “who took him in afterwards”. He still spoke of his wife in the present tense: “He loves her very much and will love her for the rest of his life. Contrary to reports, she was neither a bully nor a tyrant.” Lillis is also fearful of the consequences of his actions for his daughter now and in the future, said counsel.

Giving character references on behalf of Lillis, advertising copy-writer Gerry Kennedy, and Siobhan Cassidy, a teacher, whom Lillis met more than 30 years ago while a student in UCD, each said they had chosen him to be godfather to their first-born children and that he was an excellent godfather.

Deferring sentencing, Mr Justice Barry White remanded Lillis in custody and said he wanted to think about the matter and read the victim impact statements

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