Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Justice system is skewed against marginalised in Irish society

29 June, 2004


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has described as "scandalous" the fact that up to forty people on any given day are serving time in jail for very minor offences. He said it provided clear evidence that the "whole justice system is skewed against those who are less well off and marginalised in Irish society".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Along with its litany of other broken promises this Government has repeatedly said, going back to 1998, that it would bring forward legislation to deal with the scandalous practice of sending people to prison for very minor offences, mainly for the failure to pay fines and for minor debts.

"Yet six years on the current Minister for Justice - who has no problem whatsoever fast-tracking his own pet projects through the Dáil - has still not dealt with this socially urgent issue.

"Contrast the plight of these people who can't pay relatively small fines with the super wealthy in this country who have been evading tax and stealing from the public purse for years on a massive scale. Not one of them have seen the inside of a prison.

"This is not just a matter of the present practice being inefficient and costly. It is much more fundamental than that. It is a case of the whole justice system being unjust and skewed against the less well off and marginalised in Irish society. Put bluntly, there are many, many people who simply should not be in prison, but who are in prison because they are poor.

"I have been calling for this situation to be addressed ever since I was elected. The Minister himself has agreed with me in the Dáil that prison should only be the option of last resort used only for serious offences. The Minister should now stop building bigger prisons and instead introduce as a matter of urgency legislation to end this fundamental injustice and waste of public money." ENDS

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