Thursday 29 September 2016

New burglary laws are welcome but overdue

Published 08/09/2015 | 02:30

Amid concerns that the criminal justice system as a whole is not taking the seriousness of home burglaries into account, the scourge of these crimes is compounded by the high recidivism rates for burglary and related offences
Amid concerns that the criminal justice system as a whole is not taking the seriousness of home burglaries into account, the scourge of these crimes is compounded by the high recidivism rates for burglary and related offences

Moves by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to introduce new laws to tackle home burglars are welcome, if overdue.

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There has been mounting concern in recent years about the apparent immunity from sanction enjoyed by a small but prolific band of repeat offenders who have violated people's homes and sense of security and, in some cases, subjected citizens to violence in the sanctuary of their own homes.

Amid concerns that the criminal justice system as a whole is not taking the seriousness of home burglaries into account, the scourge of these crimes is compounded by the high recidivism rates for burglary and related offences.

The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings Bill) is a dedicated home burglary law with two main provisions, one aimed at applying consecutive jail terms for multiple offences, as well as an amendment of our bail laws to allow judges to refuse bail to those with previous convictions facing multiple charges.

Critically, however, the Regulatory Impact Assessment accompanying the bill is light on the potential cost implications of the planned law, which is aimed at keeping repeat burglars off the streets. This lack of detail on costs is partly due to the fact that the Government has no function in sentencing, which is the preserve of the judiciary.

If judges apply the new law in the manner the Government intends, our already overstretched prisons could meet further challenges, despite new laws to keep civil debtors and fine defaulters out of jail.

The legislation, while welcome, is only part of the overall crime picture, which itself has been distorted due to unreliable crime data. Ultimately, there is simply no substitute for effective, well-resourced community policing.

As every victim knows, it is being apprehended, rather than sentencing, that most criminals fear.

€500m EU aid for farmers does not go far enough

The soil is said to be the great connector of life, because without it, and without those who work it, there simply can be no life.

That's why a crisis in farming is something that should not be ignored, and yesterday farmers took their battle to Brussels to hammer home their anger at plummeting prices and to demand assistance.

What should have been a peaceful protest was met with water cannon and tear gas, a heavy handed response that is only likely to inflame passions. Nor will the €500m offered by European agriculture ministers in an emergency aid package be enough to sooth tempers or ease anxieties.

It will rightly be regarded as paltry, given the slide in dairy and meat prices. As might be expected, Irish Farmers' Association President Eddie Downey said the new measures were inadequate, given the impact the fall in incomes has had on Irish farming families. Dairy producers have arguably suffered most. The commission has undertaken to revisit support funds for those hit hardest, but this has to happen sooner rather than later. Farming has suffered a perfect storm on the back of changing dietary habits, slowing Chinese demand and a Russian embargo on Western products. Prices for beef, pork and milk have hit the floor.

One banner in Brussels summed it up: "Europe is drowning in milk," it read. Most accept that diversification and change are vital in agriculture, but they are impossible without support and investment.

Irish Independent

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