Questions for Wayne O'Donoghue and the victim impact statement

Majella HolohanMajella Holohan's victim impact statement caused almost as much sensation as the trial of the man who killed her son. She had submitted a draft of the statement to the judge in the case, Paul Carney, before reading it but then she added explosive new material which lent credence to the suspicion that material evidence was withheld from the jury in the case, which would have secured a conviction for murder.

The material she referred to was the semen “evidence”. She posed a series of rhetorical questions about why the “evidence” had been withheld and the significance of such evidence. In a lecture at UCC some months later, the judge in the case, Paul Carney, was critical of Majella Holohan and he raised questions of his own about the value of victim impact statements delivered not by the victim himself/herself – as would be the case, for instance, in rape trials – but by a bereaved relative.

The issue raises further questions about whether the DPP should disclose why he withheld evidence in a case or why, in other circumstances, he declined to institute a prosecution.

On Monday, 28 January, the DPP invited members of the public to make representations to him on how the justice system could be made more transparent, while protecting the good name of innocent parties.

The problem is that in explaining why he opted to exclude evidence and why, in other cases, he opted not to institute a prosecution, he may well be defaming the good name of the actual or would-be accused person.

In the Wayne O'Donoghue case, it is now evident that had the material concerning semen evidence in the trial it would be been hugely prejudicial to the chances of Wayne O'Donoghue getting a fair trial and, in itself, would have “proved” nothing at all (as the accompanying article by Ruth O'Kelly explains - click here ).

But aside from that Wayne O'Donoghue's own account of what happened fails to explain adequately, the following:

  • Why did he not seek help immediately once he realised Robert Holohan had suffered  injury – even accepting he was in panic, would the first instinct of most people in such circumstances nto have been to seek help?
  • Why did he move Robert Holohan to the bathroom of his house, since he himself (Wayne O'Donoghue) had no skill or experience in dealing with a situation such as pertained?
  • Why did he hide the body – most people would have accepted the explanation that Robert had been killed accidentally if he had owned up immediately and even in his distraught state he must have had some appreciation of this?
  • Why later did he attempt to burn the bags in which Robert Holohan lay in the ditch near Inch beach?
  • Was it an appreciation that the Gardaí had identified him as the prime suspect that caused him to own up eventually?