The brother of a man who died after being attacked in his own home says he was ‘barred from justice’ after magistrates barred him from court on the grounds that his presence would subjugate the attacker teenager to “excessive stress”.
Tom Quigley has called on the Justice Department to ensure bereaved relatives are not excluded from the legal process after they were prevented from reading a victim impact statement detailing his devastation at the lonely death of his older brother David.
David, 69, suffered a brain haemorrhage after being attacked with his cane at his Birkenhead home by a drunken 15-year-old boy last October. Three weeks later, after an eight-day stay in hospital, he was found dead by his brother on the kitchen floor.
“He had died alone and, judging by the expression on his face, in pain. And I hadn’t been there to comfort him,” Quigley, 67, said.
He wanted the boy to understand the harm he had caused and said police and prosecutors told him he could read the statement at the boy’s sentencing hearing, which took place this this month.
The statement described David’s kindness, including how he bought cuts of meat for those who couldn’t afford a Sunday roast. “He was lovely, a character, a sweet, unique man,” Quigley wrote.
He wanted to say to the boy, “No punishment that can be pronounced here will destroy what happened to my brother. I take no consolation from the pain you may receive. Your real punishment is that you will have to live with the guilt of this for the rest of your life.
He had planned to say that if David was in court, “he would have told you that he forgave you. His strong Christian beliefs would have led him to this decision”.
But on the day of sentencing, Quigley was told that the youth court magistrates had decided not to allow him to attend. His statement was read by the prosecutor instead.
Members of the public are not normally allowed to enter juvenile courts, but magistrates can use their discretion to allow victims and their relatives to attend.
Quigley was upset that the boy’s welfare had been placed above his own. “It had to be part of my healing process, my closure,” he said. “But I was ignored because the offender’s welfare was a priority, not mine. Who thought of me?
He thinks he should have decided if he was strong enough to face the boy, and not the other way around. In the end, he said, “the offender was protected. And I was kicked out. Who is the one being punished here?
The boy was charged with murder, but that was downgraded to grievous bodily harm after medical experts disagreed over what caused David’s death.
The pathologist who performed the autopsy recorded three causes of death: bronchopneumonia, chronic subdural hematoma and blunt head trauma. But defense experts disagreed, saying it was uncertain whether the boy’s violence killed David.
Quigley was left to find out more about the boy’s conviction via the media. He struggled to read the defense dismissing the boy’s actions – which began as a drunken incident in the garden – as “a typical tearful teenager”.
It was reported that Quigley had been banned from attending the hearing after magistrates ruled that his presence would “subject the defendant to undue stress”, with his “welfare being paramount”.
The defense barrister told magistrates the boy was doing “very well” after serving 123 days on remand in juvenile detention. The phrase stuck in Quigley’s throat. “Did anyone ask me how I was?” Am I okay? he said. “My voice was not heard. I was totally excluded from the justice process. This simply cannot be fair or just.
The boy, a first-time offender, was handed a 12-month youth dismissal order, to be served in the community, and fines totaling £146. Quigley asked to be kept informed of the boy’s progress. “Good must come from this episode. And if so, surely someone could tell me? he said.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “This was a horrific crime and our hearts go out to the family of David Quigley. Although restrictions are in place to prevent the identification of young offenders, these may be removed at the judge’s discretion.