A FEW months ago, I watched ‘Little Boy Blue’ and it was excruciatingly tough viewing. To watch a child die so needlessly is tough for anyone but when you have children yourself, it’s 100 times worse.
The pain inflicted on the family is all too easy to imagine but impossible to fathom. The tears shed for Rhys Jones and his family are shared by the tears that imagine something like that happening to your own family. As I said, it was tough viewing.
It was also difficult to watch the carryon of the killer and his accomplices. There are people like this in every village, town and city in the world. When I was a child, they were popularly known as “hard men” but nowadays we just refer to them as scum bags. They don’t care about anyone or anything, and this is why they are so frightening. In polite, law abiding society, we behave like decent people because that’s how we were brought up. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself has always been the golden rule.
For decent people, the idea of a guard knocking on your door is a horrific one. Your heart would palpitate and a million different scenarios would play out in your mind. A Garda station, if you ever had the misfortune of being in one, would be a scary and intimidating place. For these people, without an obvious care in the world, the sight of a guard at the door, or a room in a Garda Station doesn’t faze them one bit. This is what makes them frightening.
We see these people in our courtrooms week in and week out. Fifty previous convictions, sixty…seventy…one hundred. Each time, their solicitor, who is almost always paid for by us, will tell the judge about how they had a tough upbringing and how they’re ‘going to get help for their multitude of issues’. More often than not, they’re bailed and walk out of court under conditions that they have no intention of ever upholding.
For example, in Waterford City today, there is a heroin addict who – if you visit the city centre on a semi-regular basis – has probably asked you for a euro at one time or another. He’s in his early 20s and is currently awaiting trial for robbery and threatening someone with a needle. Part of his bail conditions specify that he should stay away from the city centre, and yet, he’s here every day. Another part of his bail conditions is that he has to sign on in the Garda Station every day. Do you see the problem here? If a guard stops him and asks him why he’s in the city centre, he’ll just respond that he’s on his way to sign on in the station, which is of course located in the city. There’s something amiss here.
A serious reform of our judicial system is needed. Solicitors representing these scumbags are making hundreds of thousands a year. I’ve said it before, and yes, I’ll say it again, there needs to be a strikes system brought into place with crime. Three category A crimes (serious crimes should as assault, armed robbery etc) and you’re out…no more legal aid for you. Everyone has the right to a defence (so I’m told) but I believe that you forgo that right when you repeatedly commit crimes. As I said before, they have no fear, and this is why they break the law so often. They know that they will be arrested and interrogated, and this doesn’t hold the same level of fear that it would do for you and I. They know they’ll have a day in court, they’ll know they’ll have a solicitor speaking on their behalf, and they know they’ll be back on the streets in no time.
The most dangerous person in the world is the one that does not fear the repercussions of their actions. Ireland and the UK have similar judicial systems and subsequently have the same level of crime and anti-social behavioural problems – are they ever going to wake up and smell the coffee?
Another problem with our judicial system is that it’s too bloody slow. Many solicitors are paid by the hour so they don’t care if a case is adjourned four and five times, and that’s usually what happens. I don’t know enough about the system to come up with a way of speeding it up, but I’m sure the judges and solicitors would agree with me that the snail’s pace that it currently moves at is not good enough.
Another issue that’s not spoken about enough is how the judicial systems sucks our gardaí off the streets. I was in the District Court last week and there were 22 guards out there for most of the day. While I was out there, many of them weren’t actually needed and I’m sure they would have preferred to be somewhere else. It’s a well-known fact that the Gardaí are understaffed and here they are, hanging around in a courtroom when they could be patrolling our streets or responding to emergency calls.
This is the kind of stuff that is not talked about until it’s too late. We won’t talk about the chap with 66 convictions until his 67th one repulses the nation. We won’t talk about the 22 guards held up in the District Court until there’s a serious incident that the guards don’t respond to on time.
I know it’s easy for me to hammer away at a keyboard, moaning away about everything that’s wrong with our judicial system, but it is something I feel strongly about. The type of scumbags that shot Rhys Jones are cocky and fearless because they are being pursued by a toothless defender. I can’t get away from the idea that the family of Rhys Jones, as well as having to sit in court and watch the disrespectful behaviour of their son’s killers, also – through their taxes – paid for the barristers that defended the scum.