Fines Bill welcome but further action needed -Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh T.D. speaking in the Dáil today offered a cautious welcome to the Fines Bill 2009 while pointing out that there are serious issues which remain to be dealt with. The Sinn Féin Deputy criticised the limited scope of the Bill saying, “Given the long number of years that this Bill has been at a drafting stage, I must say that it is disappointing it is not more progressive or broader in its impact. I’m particularly disappointed that it fails to reverse the current situation whereby people continue to be imprisoned simply as a result of their inability to repay a debt.”
Welcoming the legislative changes which allow for repayment of fines in installments Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that this move, which has been called for time and again by Sinn Féin, would help keep non-violent people on low wages and social welfare out of prison, a huge improvement on the previous situation which is disproportionate and gives rise to significant avoidable cost to the Exchequer.
The Sinn Féin deputy said he hoped that the new legislation involving community service would be embraced in order to stamp out the ever present inefficiencies citing a case whereby “A county Mayo farmer was fined €6 for not having a tail light on his tractor trailer. He refused to pay and two days prison was the alternative. The state paid for a taxi and two Gardaí to bring him from Mayo to Mountjoy where he was released the next day and his train fare home was also paid – total cost to the exchequer was in the region of €2,500.”
Deputy Ó Snodaigh described as scandalous a case currently before the courts where “An unemployed mother of two with a total weekly income of €300 has had a one-month jail sentence imposed on her as a result of her inability to make weekly payments of €82 to her credit union.” The government should introduce amendments to this Bill at committee stage to address the situation. Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in an exponential rise in the number of non-violent people sentenced to prison as the recession intensifies.” ENDS