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State appealing sentence of teenage boy in dating app case on 'unduly lenient' grounds

The now 17-year-old tried to murder a woman he met on an internet dating app.

File photo of court room
File photo of court room
Image: PA Images

THE STATE HAS been granted an early hearing date for its appeal against the sentence imposed on a teenage boy who tried to murder a woman he met on an internet dating app.

The now 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.

After pleading guilty to a charge of attempted murder, the teenager was sentenced to 11 years detention in November 2019 with a review to commence on 1 January 2023. The State is seeking to appeal that sentence on the grounds that it is “unduly lenient”.

The teenager had met his 25-year-old victim on the Whisper social media app, where he had pretended to be 19. The boy was just 15 when he tried to kill Ms Ng 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.

Gardaí later found a book of drawings in his bedroom, containing a sketch of someone being cut up with a knife. The words, ‘serial killer’, had been written on another page.

His victim previously gave evidence of taking what she thought was her last breath, as the teenager tried to ‘choke the life’ out of her before leaving her for dead. She later felt that he was frustrated with himself for not having killed her.

Through tears, she told the Central Criminal Court that the boy had “destroyed” her life.

In a brief remote hearing before the Court of Appeal this morning, Ms Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said the Director of Public Prosecutions was making an application for an early hearing date.

She said she understood this was not only unopposed but was “positively supported” by lawyers for the teenager.

Ms Lawlor said the matter would take approximately an hour to hear and was in a position to proceed next week.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said the court would fix the matter for hearing on 14 May.

Mr Niall Nolan BL, for the teenager, told the court that inquiries had been made to Oberstown Children Detention Campus, where his client is detained, and he understood it was feasible to have a video link to the hearing.

He said a family member may also wish to attend with the boy from Oberstown.

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