Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I WAS amazed to learn that more than 60 people are murdered in Ireland each year. Amazed is probably the wrong word to use; left speechless is probably a better description. But I was even more surprised to learn that over the past three years, 50 murders have been committed by people out on bail for other crimes.

The problem with our judicial system is that we are far more worried about taking care of the criminal than looking after the welfare of others.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when a criminal may well be a victim, if you know what I mean, but an easy distinction can be made between these people and career criminals.

I always say that but for the grace of God, most of us could and probably have broken the law in some shape or form in the past but, as I have stated, we are far from being career criminals and most of us will hold our hands up and admit to our mistakes.

Then there is the type of criminal who escaped from custody while on a visit to Tallaght Hospital for treatment last week. That individual was, without doubt, a career criminal. He had a long list of convictions for violent crimes. And I am sure he didn’t give a hoot for the welfare of the two prison officers he injured during his escape.

Thankfully, he was re-arrested within 24 hours, but even during that brief period of freedom, he carried out at least two robberies and threatened the life of a 20-year-old.

He had escaped from custody in England three years ago, where he was serving a sentence for armed robbery. He should never have been allowed day-release over there. Equally, he should not have been allowed a hospital visit in this jurisdiction without an armed escort.

The least society deserves is to know that when a person is put behind bars for a violent crime, they will serve whatever sentence has been handed down by the courts.

Unfortunately, in the case of murder, that sentence can now vary from as little as seven years to an average of 18 years. It’s not a lot when you take into consideration the pain and suffering endured by the loved ones of the victims.

As for manslaughter, the length of time is often shorten than the average family keeps a car – three to four years – and then the perpetrator has a right to continue with life where they left off, while others face a lifetime of grieving.

Currently, a harrowing case is being tried in the Central Criminal Court. I have to admit, I am not interested in reading all the gruesome details, but I do get a flavour on a daily basis as to what is going on.

This is an extremely difficult time for the family of the deceased but, hopefully, they will get the verdict that will allow them some form of closure. However, unless changes are made to current legislation, the perpetrator of that crime will be back on the streets of this country within our lifetime.

Life imprisonment does not mean life. He can keep on applying for bail after seven years and eventually he will be released. But if changes are made to legislation, a minimum term could be set before he could even apply for bail, and at least then, the family of the victim would know how long justice will be served.

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By Michael Godfrey
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