Teen sentenced to 11 years for attempted murder
A teenage boy who tried to murder a woman he met on an internet dating app has been sentenced to 11 years detention but that will be reviewed in 2023.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named because he is a minor, has been in custody since December 2017 when he lured Stephanie Ng to an isolated area at the Sea Front, Queen's Road, Dun Laoghaire.
Today, Justice Michael White said the boy most likely strangled her until she was unconscious before he slashed her neck with a knife. He then, "left her for dead without any attempt at assistance."
He said the attack was planned and pre-meditated and the purpose of him contacting her on social media was to cause harm. He said there was evidence of a "determined strategy" to entice her to an isolated location where he carried out the "cold, calculated" assault.
Mr Justice White said the victim, when delivering a Victim Impact Statement to the court, appeared to be a "very gentle person and slight of stature." The attack on her had effected her emotionally, she suffers nightmares, flash backs and struggles to trust people. She had become a different person, he said, and needed professional help. He said: "The impact is life-changing and will be with her for the rest of her life."
He added that mitigating factors included the boy's early plea of guilty and his previous good character. He is, Justice White said, a "young boy with no previous convictions" who comes from a loving family who have been exemplary in their behaviour.
He said there was evidence of remorse on the boy's part. A report from Oberstown Detention Centre had also been favourable to the boy. Justice White said he would also take into account his immaturity, he was only 15 at the time, and his mental illness.
Justice White said his understanding of the crime is limited by the fact that he has not seen a particular psychological report, which was withheld from him and therefore the court was hampered in exploring the boy's mental health issues. In the absence of that report Justice White said he relied on a report by a psychologist who had seen the boy only once. He said the boy's "prognosis is uncertain but there are serious concerns for his future and the possibliity of reoffending."
He further noted that the doctor had said that he felt the boy could have told him much more but chose not to and showed a "lack of emotional warmth". During a previous hearing the boy's mother said his behaviour changed when he was prescribed a large dose of Prozac before the attack. Justice White said the defence had put forward no expert evidence in relation to that so he couldn't "definitively say" what effect it had. However, he noted that the family had seen an improvement in the boy since he changed his medication.
Justice White said the headline sentence for such a serious crime would be life imprisonment but taking into account all the factors, including the boy's age and mental health issues, he sentenced him to 11 years with a review to commence on January 1, 2023. The boy first went into custody on December 26, 2017. Justice White said he will have retired by 2023 so another judge will carry out the review. He said his preference would have been to suspend part of the sentence subject to close supervision with the psychiatric services of the Central Mental Hospital but because the boy is a minor that option is not open to him. He said he regrets passing the responsibility on to another judge and added that he can't bind another judge to his preferred option.
The boy pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Stephanie Ng on December 23, 2017, at Sea Front, Queen’s Road, Dun Laoghaire. He had met his 25-year-old victim on the Whisper social media app, where he had pretended to be 19. The boy tried to kill her during their first face-to-face meeting, after suggesting they take a selfie by the water’s edge. There, he grabbed her from behind and choked her to unconsciousness before slashing her neck with a knife.