It is not unusual to hear a judge refer to a case as “among the worst I’ve ever dealt with”. The phrase has become an almost judicial cliche, like calling a defendant a “Walter Mitty type” or warning a repeat offender they are in the “last chance saloon”.
It is a way of marking the facts of a case as standing above the normal level of depravity the courts deal with, rather than an objective ranking of the seriousness of a crime.
But when Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy used the phrase six years ago to describe the aggravated sexual assault and attempted rape of a woman by her brother, it was clear he meant it.
Jailing the man for 12 years, the experienced judge said the only other case he had dealt with which came close in terms of seriousness was that of a man who abducted a mother and