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Primetime investigates highlights a Court System in chaos

11 December, 2017 - by Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has responded to the Primetime investigates Programme ‘Law & Disorder’, stating it illustrates a state of chaos particularly at District Court Level, and a need for reform.

Describing the programme as “shocking” he said it highlights clearly the need for a Sentencing Council.

“Our safety and welfare as citizens depends on the law being applied. While some of the cases referred to in this documentary may seem minor, the reality is that they have real and major consequences for people’s lives, as we saw from the heart breaking case of Shane O’Farrell, and his family who have been bereaved.

“The chaos, and the failures come from many directions. The system is struggling due to the failures of the Departments and Ministers of Justice and Transport, an Garda Síochána, and the Courts Service and Judiciary.

“Some of the discrepancies are quite extraordinary and shocking - one in six drink driving offences did not proceed in 2016 due to summons not being served.

“This also includes wide geographical discrepancies, 35% in Cork City, but just 4% in Cavan Monaghan, with an 18% National average. It is clear that an Garda Síochána need to get their house in order because these kind of clerical errors leading to non-convictions is not acceptable.

“It also highlighted the fact that the Road Traffic Acts, of which there have been 22, with the majority still in force, need to be consolidated and comprehensively dealt with – to remove the apparently multiple and complex loopholes. The Minister for Transport must now make this an urgent priority.

“The discrepancies in percentages of Drink Driving Cases leading to convictions is worrying, with 85% in Westmeath, and 80% in Kildare, but only 34% in Waterford. Consideration should be given to providing State Solicitors, to assist Gardaí in court appearances.

“I was shocked and appalled to see the level of difference in sentencing by Judges.

“Some 51% of dangerous driving cases in Sligo Leitrim South Donegal are struck out yet only 6% in Cork.

“The over-reliance on the poor box, in some instances where they are in fact operating against the law, and the apparent racial profiling of some defendants, show that there is not enough oversight of judges, and indeed discipline.

“We will be bringing amendments to the Judicial Council Bill to put in place a Sentencing Council, as clearly that there is a need for Sentencing Guidelines to provide greater consistency to how Judges implement the law.

“This isn’t just about loopholes, and dry legal matters – this is about people getting off for drink driving and dangerous driving, putting lives at risk – the Minister for Transport, for Justice, and the Gardaí need to step up to the plate.”


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