| 9.8°C Dublin

John O'Keeffe: Fair dues to the common sense of judges saving our cash

Today is the day we, the taxpayers of Ireland, must thank certain of our judges for taking a stand on our behalf. We may still have problems with lily livered sentencing practices and slavish devotion to offenders above victims, but at least today feels a little different.

Today we raise a glass to Circuit Court judges Frank O'Donnell and Des Hogan who cried halt to further wastage of our hard-earned money on criminogenic deadbeats.

Judge O'Donnell quite rightly described the €3,800 cost of a psychiatric report for an offender who had conned a man out of €380 as "an absolute disgrace". This cost included one session with him to assess his "psychiatric state" which of course was paid for by you and me. Had this special genius been found guilty of the most heinous serial killings this side of the 21st century we might have had some sympathy. He was however guilty of scamming a man on eBay and using a computer to make false documents. That does not require a psychiatric report -- least of all one costing €3,800 -- it requires a hefty jail sentence.

Thankfully, Judge O'Donnell pulled no punches.

He castigated the report as being of no use in deciding sentence and such reports were simply being ordered "like confetti at a wedding". When told of the cost of the report Judge O'Donnell could only respond "you're not serious".

Frank O'Donnell is not alone.


A second Circuit Court judge, Judge Des Hogan, spoke of his surprise at the relentless practice of "prematurely" ordering psychiatric reports paid for under the legal aid scheme which he described as "unnecessary".

The crime in question was committed by a Nigerian man whom was found with €2,000 worth of cocaine in his possession. His defence team, like so many others, had the temerity to request the psychiatric report before even a shred of evidence was heard in the case.

The scandal of ordering ludicrously expensive psychiatric reports for two criminals in order that 'justice' may be seen to be done is indeed, an absolute disgrace.

Internet thieving requires a jail term, not a report as to the mental state of the offender.

Possession of €2,000 worth of a Class A drug does not require knowing whether the criminal was psychiatrically ill or not.

These are not sad people, these are bad people. In any event, we are long past caring.

In our febrile rush to ensure we have a 'balanced' criminal justice system we have ensured that the only ones who are laughing at taking money from our pockets are the criminals.

At last, however, two noble men have said 'Enough!'

We need many more judges like O'Donnell and Hogan. Time for them all to stand up and be counted.

John O'Keeffe is a criminologist and law lecturer