Rural crime and repeat offenders: ‘Laws aren’t strong enough’

Stricter laws to allow Gardai to take on rural crime have been called for by deputy Jackie Cahill, with reform sought for issues such as free legal aid, bail conditions and trespassing laws.

Speaking to presenter Claire Mc Cormack on tonight’s episode of FarmLand, the Tipperary TD and Fianna Fail spokesperson for food and horticulture stressed the need for changes to the judiciary system.

He noted that some aspects of change are already in place, such as tagging repeat offenders with electronic trackers.

“When guards do get people into court you have to look at the whole judicial system and what sentences are being passed down by the judiciary. And we have numerous people out on bail and committing crimes.

I think when they appear back into the court system they should get the full rigours of the law imposed on them.

“I also think tagging should be used here; we have the legislation in place to do that but it’s not being used; and anyone who’s out on bail should be tagged.”

Free legal aid

Commenting on the topic of free legal aid, deputy Cahill underlined the frustration felt by rural dwellers to see people with multiple offences to their name use free legal aid at will.

“I had a case where a publican barred someone from his pub – put him out.

“The person who took a case against him lost it in the district court; took it to the circuit court; lost it again; and then took it to the high court.

All they had to pay was a minimum fee because they had free legal aid – but it cost the publican around €10,000 in legal fees.

The TD noted that property owners feel aggrieved that “habitual criminals” have free access to legal aid and don’t incur legal costs.

“All these areas need to be tightened up,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating for the guards as well when they bring in a criminal after doing painstaking work to get them into the court and then maybe he just gets a slap on the knuckles when it goes into court.

“So I think our whole judicial system and the way the judiciary treat these people when it comes to court needs to be examined.

“I think there’s a lot of things there in the statutes book that the Minister for Justice could enact that would help the fight against crime. It’s a lot of small measures that will win this battle,” the deputy contended.

Cahill also highlighted the issue of Garda resources, noting that a number of the Garda stations in Tipperary were closed at night time from around 7:00pm onward, while limited squad cars were also hindering progress.

Illegal hunting and trespassing was also a matter of concern, with the TD noting that there is a widespread belief that people out with lurcher hounds at night are gathering information on areas to come back at a later time to commit crimes.

Trespassing laws

“Definitely the trespassing laws aren’t strong enough for the guards to act on that. They’re not allowed to seize the vehicles that are parked on the side of the road; they find it extremely hard to seize the dogs that they have doing this illegal hunting.

If people are on property that they shouldn’t be on, they should be arrested and be able to be convicted of it.

“As it stands at the moment, the law is very weak as regards trespass and that has to be strengthened,” the TD said.