Wednesday 22 November 2017

Comment: The man pointing the gun had over 200 previous convictions and was out on bail - why does Irish law allow this?'

The Criminal Courts of Justice, but sometimes justice is not done
The Criminal Courts of Justice, but sometimes justice is not done
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Three armed men drove into a rural business and pointed a gun in the faces of the owners.

They demanded all the cash in the office to be handed over.

"If I find any more, I’ll f***ing kneecap you," the ring leader can be heard roaring on the CCTV footage.

A few years later, all three men are still walking the streets of Dublin, and judging by their Facebook profiles, they’re living quite the high life.

And why wouldn’t they be - thousands of euro after just two minutes work is quite a profitable business.

The armed robbery only lasted that long, but in the words of the owners, "it felt like a lifetime".

A week later at their niece’s birthday party, the woman flinched when a child popped a balloon.

She thought it was a gun.

The men responsible were held in connection with the robbery a couple months later but the DPP dropped the case as there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute them.

It transpired one of the alleged masked men had a mere 200 previous convictions and was out on bail the day the gang travelled down the M50.

When it comes to deterring legal systems, Ireland ranks pretty damn low.

It must be disheartening for victims of crime to learn that the perpetrator had hundreds of previous convictions and in spite of this, was granted bail by a judge in an Irish court.

To quote Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones:"If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place."

In the opening episode of hit TV show Love/Hate, which depicts fictional characters in Dublin’s underworld, ‘Darren’ gets away with a prison sentence because of an incorrect date on a search warrant.

Himself and 'Nidgey' share a laugh with their solicitor; a laugh which comes at the expense of the Irish legal system.

While the characters are fictional, the scenarios portrayed sadly aren’t.

Constitutional rights favouring the criminals?

Criminal defence lawyers will say everyone has constitutional rights that deserve to be upheld, which is fair enough. But is it fair that someone can be acquitted because of something so trivial as a wrong address?

Justice Benjamin Cardozo once remarked – “The Criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered”.

In the case of DPP v. Raphael Farina, a man found with over 700,000 pornographic images, Farina was acquitted due to an incorrect date on the search warrant. His constitutional rights relating to the inviolability of the home were adjudged to have been infringed.

The ex Central Bank worker had been jailed for possession of child porn but had his conviction quashed because of a misdated warrant.

The incorrect date didn’t change the fact that Mr Farina had all those images, some of children as young as six months old. His defence counsel did not contest any of the evidence against him during the trial - they were only contesting the validity of the search warrant used by gardaí.

The outcome is one which is hard to look at objectively.

Similarly, our lax bail laws leave many scratching their heads. Nothing is simple, and it is easy to sit here and write about all that is wrong with the legal system.

Our prisons are overcrowded and that may be a reason why bail is granted so frequently - there’s nowhere to put them.

Rehabilitation programmes are few and far between and we have one of the highest rates of repeat offending in Europe.

Figures published last year revealed that close to half of prisoners released in 2009 re-offended within three years.

The Joint Agency Response to Crime initiative (J-ARC) was launched in 2015 to help repeat offenders reconnect with families, receive treatments for addiction and get help finding training or work placement.

We haven’t heard much about it since its inception, so take from that what you will.

Three strikes, you’re out

Comparing our system to other countries, you would wonder why we can’t take a leaf out of other common law books.

Alan Hughes, a Dublin native who works as a detective in Australia, says someone with 5 convictions wouldn’t be granted bail down under, let alone 200.

"Everyone is entitled to have bail considered, but it’s like considering anything. Would you consider walking in front of a truck? You might think about it, but you’re not going to do it. That’s how judges approach granting bail to repeat offenders," he told Independent.ie.

"We have a three strikes system here. If you have burgled a residential area, on your third conviction, you get a mandatory prison sentence of two or three years - no suspended sentences; you have to go to jail."

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

You frequently hear Irish people utter the following when criminals are caught: “Ah sure, nothing will be done to them anyway”.

Sadly, they raise a valid point.

Online Editors

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