Friday 26 August 2016

Strong message sent as sex offender back in jail

Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30

Yesterday, Sarah Jane O'Callaghan, defending, told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that the trial was likely to take two weeks
Yesterday, Sarah Jane O'Callaghan, defending, told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that the trial was likely to take two weeks

THE immediate return to jail of convicted sex attacker Anthony Lyons is a vindication for his young victim and the public interest. Confidence in the administration of justice in respect of sexual crimes is persistently fragile as our high attrition or drop-out rate of sexual violence cases attests. Sentencing is just one element of the complex process of holding sexual offenders to account. But it matters hugely in maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system.

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Yesterday, the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) quashed as unduly lenient a six-month jail term imposed on Lyons who will now serve at least another 14 months behind bars.

In doing so, it sent out a strong message of deterrence.

The court acknowledged that the fear instilled by such attacks resonates far beyond the individual victims but to all women who – like every citizen – are entitled to safely walk our streets.

The three-judge court, led by former Chief Justice John Murray, also took the opportunity to comment on a 21-year-old law that allows judges to issue statutory compensation orders instead of – or in addition to – dealing with a serious offender in any other way.

The law has given rise to suspicions that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor.

It has also led to perceptions that those with means can buy their way out of jail.

The CCA has invited the Oireachtas to review the law, perhaps to state that such compensation orders be applied – in appropriate cases – in addition to a sentence.

That suggested reform is welcome as is the court's ruling that the prospect of a civil claim against an offender can not mitigate their sentence in criminal proceedings.

The ruling is timely: it fell within hours of the Istanbul Convention – an international instrument to prevent sexual violence against women – coming into force.

Ireland has not yet signed or ratified the convention.

The Lyons ruling is a positive development in our sexual offences jurisprudence, but much more needs to be done to protect all victims of sexual and gender based violence.

Energy sector needs real watchdog for public

The new tariffs for water announced yesterday will come as a shock to many families of a certain size. The good news is that children under 18 years of age will not incur a water charge. The bad news is that in addition to the "average charge" of €176 for the first adult, which will have to be paid by every household, there will be an additional levy of €102 for each of the other adults living in a house.

A household with five adults – not uncommon in a time which so many school leavers go onto college and young adults delay leaving home – will incur a bill of €584, considerably larger than was anticipated when water charges were first announced.

The recession, rising rents and other factors mean that adult children, some of whom will be teenagers in education, are staying at home much longer so the new charge structure will come as a shock to many families already struggling with rising utility bills and the local property tax.

The new figures were published yesterday by the Commissioner for Energy Regulation.

Thus far the Energy Regulator has not acted as a public watchdog and indeed since the foundation of the office prices have risen steeply in the energy sector.

It seems that in all these matters there is nobody representing the public interest. Surely that should be a Government priority and one that might meet with popular approval for a change.

Irish Independent

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