Fitzpatrick decision: A Banana Republic decision

 

By Anthony Sheridan

If I was an establishment judge and wanted to make a questionable and disgraceful decision that would damage my country and its people I would announce my decision the day after a major international act of terrorism.

If I was an establishment politician responsible for setting up a law enforcement agency with a mandate to bring white-collar criminals to justice but who were also friends of my political class I would ensure that the agency was starved of funds, starved of effective legislation and led by compliant staff who were willing to operate under political instruction.

 

Dolores O’Riordan judgement a disgrace

breaking-bad-law

By Anthony Sheridan

The decision by judge Patrick Durkan to allow Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan buy her way out of a criminal offence is a disgrace.

First, let’s look at the offences committed by O’Riordan.

Caused a disturbance on an Aer Lingus flight including stepping on the foot of a flight attendant.

Assaulted two members of the airport police at Shannon.

Obstructed a police officer in the execution of his duty.

Escaped from police custody.

Headbutted and spat in the face of a policeman.

Falsely accused police officers of sexual assault.

These are very serious offences and would normally result in a conviction and probably a prison sentence. The judge had three options:

Acquit her on the grounds that she was suffering from a mental illness at the time.

Find her guilty and impose an appropriate sentence.

Let her off completely but make it look respectable under the cloak of the court poor box charade.

By letting her off the judge lessens respect for the law and increases the suspicion that the court poor box is nothing more than a mechanism under which those with influence can avoid the consequences of having a criminal record.

The judge is reported as saying that O’Riordan was treated in exactly the same way as any other member of the public but then went on to completely contradict that claim by saying:

Because she is a public figure, she not only had to deal with any sentence or sanction that the court imposed but also one that the public would impose.

This means, in effect, that public figures are entitled to greater leniency simply because they are public figures.

In my opinion O’Riordan should have been found guilty, fined €6,000 and told to get on with living with the reality of having a criminal record, just like ordinary people have to.

The court poor box perversion should be discontinued before it does any more damage to the standing of the law.

O'Brien repeats serious allegation against judiciary

On Thursday last I wrote about Denis O’Brien’s extremely serious allegation that the judiciary had put a ring of steel around Justice Moriarty because they knew he was never up to the job.

During an interview with Pat Kenny (Friday) O’Brien initially seemed to withdraw the allegation when Kenny suggested it would be an appalling vista if the entire judiciary were to collude against one man.

O’Brien said:

You’ve got to separate the wider judiciary from Justice Moriarty. I believe I was stitched by Justice Moriarty but I’m not in any way critical of the wider judicial community.

It’s a measure of O’Brien’s lack of mental coordination that, minutes later, he repeated the allegation when Kenny again suggested he take his case to the courts.

O’Brien:

Look, do you know a lot about the legal profession, the judiciary and the Law Society. There’s a code amongst them all that they don’t take each other on, they don’t criticise each other.

And:

There’s a ring of steel around Moriarty because they knew, the judiciary knew, that he was never up to the job, he’s a Circuit Court judge.

As I wrote on Thursday, in a real democracy with proper law enforcement O’Brien would by now find himself before a judge explaining his accusations.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has responded to the hysterical rants of O’Brien and Lowry regarding Justice Moriarty and the judiciary in general saying:

Statements which endanger public confidence in our judiciary and in our courts are entirely unacceptable and are to be deplored.

Legal expert Professor Gerry Whyte of Trinity Law School said that if criticism of the judiciary went so far as to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice then we’re talking about an offence called scandalising the court.

If Minister Shatter genuinely thinks the comments are unacceptable then he should immediately initiate proceedings against O’Brien and Lowry.

One law for rich and powerful

Letter in this morning’s Irish Independent.

One law for rich and powerful

NOT surprisingly, the fugitive solicitor Michael Lynn has refused to return to Ireland to give evidence in a High Court case (Irish Independent, September 20).

How touching, therefore, to see State and legal authorities facilitating this fugitive in tying up loose ends from his previous work by providing a video link from his bolt hole somewhere in London.

It is, however, puzzling to us ordinary folk how the State can make such arrangements with this man and yet seem totally incapable of taking the necessary action that would make him accountable for the very serious allegations he is facing.

Perhaps those same authorities could arrange an annual two-week amnesty for Mr Lynn so that he could return home and nostalgically breathe in the air of a country where the level of accountability apparently depends on one’s profession and standing in society.

Anthony Sheridan

Different people, different justice

November 2nd: Seven men arrested for alleged attempted robbery.

Three days later:

November 5th: Men hauled before court under armed guard to receive justice.

Sum involved: €1.2 million.

October 15th: Story breaks of solicitor allegedly involved in massive property fraud.

Twenty days later:

November 3rd: Judge is considering whether such matters might warrant investigation by those charged with criminal law.

Sum involved: At least €70 million.

The law outside the law?

Yet another solicitor is under scrutiny for allegedly robbing his clients. Michael Lynn, solicitor and property developer is under investigation by the Law Society for what they sheepishly describe as ‘acts of dishonesty’ possibly involving millions of euros.

On Liveline last Thursday (18th Oct.) a caller related how his mother and father were robbed by another solicitor, a case that demonstrates just how well protected this privileged group is from real justice.

In 1981, the couple bought a property in Nassau Street Dublin. Unfortunately, they employed a corrupt solicitor by the name of Johnathan Brooks.

He never disclosed to them that he was the owner of the property and on the day they bought the property Brooks changed the leases on the two shops on the ground floor so that they reverted to him after a number of years. This crooked solicitor also robbed the registration and stamp duty on the property.

When the corruption was discovered in 1985 a complaint was made to the Law Society but they didn’t want to know. This is not unusual behaviour for this august body.

After over a year of stalling the matter eventually came before the disciplinary committee of the High Court. This court has the power to strike off a solicitor.

The caller related how badly he was treated by the three sitting judges and claimed that they were sitting in judgement of him rather than the corrupt solicitor. Eventually, Brooks admitted that he had ‘forgotten to do the paperwork’. (A case of tribunalitis?).

He assured the judges that he had paid all the fines, settled with Revenue and stamped all the deeds. The learned gentlemen never asked for proof of these claims and some years later the caller discovered that Brooks had lied to the court.

In all, Brooks robbed about €15 million from clients in his short criminal career, he committed suicide in 1992.

Joe Duffy naively asked about reimbursement for the victims of this rogue solicitor from the Law Society. In fact, the Law Society did everything they could to keep this very valuable property for themselves. It was only when they were threatened with the High Court and given a sum of money that they relented.

It took this family 24 years to get what was rightfully theirs back from this criminal solicitor and the greed of the Law Society. The caller said that of about 100 solicitors he had dealt with in his life, only about five were honest – he’s lucky.

He also said that solicitors should be put in stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables – I agree.

A disgraceful decision

In a functional democracy former Fianna Fail TD, Michael Collins would be facing at least five years in jail with fines and penalties running into millions.

In Ireland, he was let off with a 12 month suspended sentence and a pathetic €25,000 fine.

Judge Carroll Moran said that what Mr. Collins did was very serious, TD’s after all, he said make the laws of the land, including the tax laws and Mr. Collins had violated those laws.

The crimes committed by Collins are indeed serious but it is obvious that the judge is of the opinion that a man of Collins’ ‘calibre’ should not have to actually suffer the indignity of paying for his crimes.

Here are the excuses accepted and given by the judge. (My comments are in brackets).

Collins had settled his liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

(This was after Collins had turned his nose up at two amnesties in 1993 and 2001. Failure to comply with the 1993 amnesty carried a mandatory jail sentence. The word ‘mandatory’ is still not understood in Ireland).

He had suffered public disgrace, the humiliation of the court proceedings which had effectively ended his political career.

(Every citizen hauled before the courts suffers disgrace and humiliation. This excuse is invariably accepted by judges, when it involves a white collar criminal).

He also added that this was a severe punishment for a man in Mr. Collins’ position.

(This is an outrageous statement for a professional judge to make. It effectively confirms what many have often suspected, that there is one law for the rich and powerful and another for the poor).

Had there been no case he most likely would have stood for Fianna Fail in Limerick West and probably would have won.

(Again, this is an outrageous view to take. Are we to take it that a hardened criminal will also escape justice if he pleads that if it wasn’t for his crimes he would probable have joined the priesthood?).

He had severe health difficulties, diabetes, high blood pressure and severe anxiety. His doctor said that it could lead to a stroke if he was agitated and given a prison sentence.

(This excuse has the same credibility as the infantile ‘dog ate my homework’ plea. Again, this ridiculous excuse is almost always accepted when made by a white collar criminal. Neither does the judge explain how a man, with health problems so severe that he was in danger of a stroke, could fight a gruelling election campaign).

This case once again demonstrates that judges have little understanding of the damage done to society by corrupt politicians and even less understanding of the greater damage done when the legal system fails to properly punish white collar crime.

Good of society v interests of individual

When all the razzmatazz is stripped from the Paris Hilton story we are left with a very simple situation. A citizen who broke probation for a relatively minor crime was given 45 days in jail. A sheriff decided to release her to house arrest after two days but the judge who sentenced her was having none of it and threw her back in jail.

The judge was right. Clearly, he believes that justice should be seen to be done, that people with influence are not given any special treatment. In other words, the judge sees law enforcement and respect for the law as more important than the needs of any individual citizen. The outcome is bad for the unfortunate citizen but good for American society.

In Ireland, the opposite is usually the case as the recent ODCE/NIB case clearly illustrated. Even though Mr. Curran was part of a major criminal conspiracy a judge decided that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to ban him from company management because it might damage his honesty and integrity. The outcome in this case is good for the individual but very bad for Irish society.

The American judge looks out and acts for the greater good of society, the Irish judge looks in and protects the interests of one dodgy individual thus seriously damaging the credibility of the Irish justice system.

Still waiting for real action on white collar crime

“The Competition Authority’s case into the price fixing of cars consumed all their resources over the three year period it took to bring to trial”

“I believe that cartels are endemic in the industry.”

The above quotes from RTE News on Feb 9th last are indicative of how seriously white collar crime is taken in this country.

The Competition Authority is only provided with enough resources to conduct one investigation into one aspect of one industry. Meanwhile, consumers continue to be robbed of countless millions in the motor industry and any number of other cartels operating with impunity.

In addition to lack of resources for the Competition Authority, the naivety of judges is also a major contributing factor in the continuing rip off of consumers.

Denis Manning, the criminal in this case, spouted the age old excuse of age and ill health and the judge fell for it. This is despite the fact that Manning steadfastly refused to cooperate with the investigation thus prolonging it by up to 18 months.

Crime does pay – If your collar is white

In today’s Irish Times, Arthur Beesley further analyses the Galway oil cartel case that saw JP Lambe, a major criminal, get away with a mere six months suspended sentence and a €15,000 fine.

Lambe was described as “the enforcer’ in this operation where those distributors who wanted to stay honest were bullied and intimidated into towing the line. It is also reported that cartels might be costing Irish consumers as much as €635 million per year.

Let’s compare this case of organised crime to another recent case.

Cara Canavan (33), the mother of two small children was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing €146,000 from the HSE. In her defence, Mrs. Canavan claimed that she is a suicidal manic depressive.

The judge was clear in his reasoning for handing down such a harsh sentence.

‘A sentence had to act as a deterrent not just for the accused person but for others who might commit a similar crime.”

In my opinion the discrepancy between the two sentences can be, at least partly, explained by the colour of their collars. Mrs Canavan is a blue collar worker. When someone from this section of the community commits a crime they must be severely punished as a deterrent – ‘for others who might commit a similar crime”. It goes without saying, of course, that those without collars at all are in need of the most severe deterrents.

Mr Lambe, on the other hand, is a white collar criminal. In some circles, even the use of the word “criminal’ is a bit harsh for these people. Indeed, to my knowledge, the police don’t even include white collar crime in annual reports.

Bank officials who rob millions from their customers, Ansbacher account holders, major tax evaders, cartel enforcers, politicians who receive large amounts of “forgotten’ money and so on.

These people are not “really’ criminals. They’re upstanding members of the community, “robust’ businessmen, committed politicians, whose “good to the community/economy/State, far outweighs any “minor’ infringements of the law.