Author Archives: Admin

Rory Treanor

You served the time.

Why are you still doing the time?

Rory Treanor writes:

Removing convictions from people’s records is more important than giving employers free access to employee’s records.

Today is National Mandela Day. Long-term prisoner Mandela was an exceptional man in exceptional circumstances, but he is also a great reminder of how the label “criminal” tells you little or nothing about a person.

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 allows for a person who is over the age of 18 at the time of the commission of a first offence, and; if seven years have passed since the conviction, and; who has completed their sentence, and; who has been of “good character” ever since, and; if the sentence was for less than 12 months; to consider that conviction to be “spent.”

This means the person doesn’t have to declare it to anyone other than a court.

That is fine, as far as it goes. It shouldn’t be the case that a person who does something wrong once has to carry that with them forever. But it is excessively simplistic and overly restrictive.

In the criminal justice system, there are four main reasons for punishing someone who commits a crime:

Retribution
Deterrence
Incapacitation
Rehabilitation

The socially conservative attitude to criminal punishment is that while a person might have served their sentence they will always be a criminal. This is admitting defeat. Such an attitude is saying that the state has no capacity to effectively rehabilitate.

The state fails to rehabilitate when the state fails to try. The more tools there are at the disposal of the state to promote rehabilitation, the better.

When a court imposes a custodial sentence it is common for it to be suspended, in whole or in part. This means that if a person is not of good behaviour then they will serve the whole of the sentence, the suspended part being reactivated.

People who enter prison gain remission, “time off for good behaviour.” It is an effective tool within prisons to maintain order.

But once a person emerges from prison they are still a criminal. The shame which is attached to a duty to disclose previous convictions deters seeking employment and so it increases poverty rates amongst offenders and so increases rates of repeat offending.

This is the antithesis of rehabilitation. The system is complicit in re-offending rates.

There is a significant problem with the 2016 Act as it does not ask the most important question: has the person chosen a better direction? Most people who stand to benefit from the Act were not going in any criminal “direction” at all. It was a once-off.

But if it is right in principle then it should be extended in practice.

It should not be limited to first-time offenders, it should not be limited to shorter sentences and it should not ignore the offence itself.

There are some offences that, due to their severity, might never be appropriate to be deemed “spent”, such as offences involving children, sexual offences and offences involving dishonesty.

But to say that a person, having committed an offence, is always a criminal, is damaging to the criminal justice system itself. This was acknowledged by the Children Act, 2001.

If a person is able to show their continued rehabilitation after completion of a sentence then a person should not be required to disclose the cause of their rehabilitation, in effect undermining those efforts.

When a judge is imposing a sentence, that judge should be entitled to fix a review date. At that time a person can apply to a court of equal jurisdiction to have their conviction declared “spent.”

As is the practice at present, the conviction still happened and may still be disclosed to a court. But that person will have better employment opportunities, better travel opportunities and be rewarded for their efforts since they were last convicted. They will lose that benefit if they offend again.

It will never be possible to put together hard statistics on who has benefited from the 2016 Act. This is because, while the state is content to label someone a criminal, the state has little concern for what happens to offenders further down the line.

Scientific evidence points to the conclusion that the human brain is still forming up to the age of 25. A person is more prone to engaging in risky behaviours and less likely to engage in long-term, strategic thinking below that age.

This means that young people, and men in particular, are more likely to go through a “wild” phase.

Laws are created by old people who have made it through that phase (relatively) unscathed. They literally do not think like the people who are going through that phase. People in that phase make up the vast majority of offenders.

Rory Treanor is a barrister, host of Brief Notes – the weekly legal podcast from Dublin City FM, and Social Democrats Local Area Rep for Pembroke-South Dock. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhtreanor

Pic: Garda.ie

Access to my body sensors!?

Swoon

‘J’ writes:

I’d like to get your readers’ views on this as maybe I’m being over the top…

So I replaced my lost iPhone4 last week thinking that Samsung would have better morals than Apple. But then I discovered an incredible level of intrusion with Google /Android.

Firstly, it took an age to turn off the microphone, with there being an intentional level of difficulty in finding out how to do it (I had to download the Google Now app to this).

Then I refused permissions for access to pics, emails etc. except for the basics (pictures for messages, microphone for calls etc.) which was also intentionally difficult to do.

Now I can’t even send an email without them wanting access to ‘Body Sensors’ (see pic). Regardless of the data privacy issues it’s the sheer obnoxiousness of the whole set-up that really gets me and I really wish I hadn’t bought it. Whatcha think?

Anyone?

The All Blacks thought they couldn’t lose
The test with the Lions a cruise
But the Lions proved tougher
And meaner and rougher
And the All blacks Slunk off amidst boos!

Martin Cahill

A geezer named Donald Trump,
Gave most of the world the hump
When he said to them all
I’ll build a big wall
And the brickies ill pay on the lump

Mick O’Brien

I once knew a dolphin called Jim
Who went and forgot how to swim.
He quite nearly drowned,
Jumped up on the ground,
And prayed ’til he sprouted a limb.

Darren Hughes

An eager young beaver named Leo
Was Enda’s pretend Alter Ego
Til one day with a shout
He cried, “please let me out!”
And now he’s Fine Gael’s Padre Pio

Frances Browner

There is a wonderful place in the west
A City which is the very best
The People, the Places and all the smiling faces
A step above all the rest.

Lucy Gibbons

Some of the entries to the Limerick competition for the 4th annual Bring Your Limericks to Limerick festival hosted by the Limerick Writer’s Centre this August.

The competition has a a grand prize of €500 for the best Limerick.

Enter you ‘rick here.

Bring Your Limericks To Limerick

Earlier: A Limerick A Day

Yesterday’s Sunday Independent

 

Derek writes:

A technical question. Is there  a measurement  available for who exactly the squeezed middle are? I earn 45k a year and my wife takes home about the same. We live in rented accommodation in Dublin city and cannot afford a house and won’t be able to afford one for  years. We take one holiday a year and have one car and no kids yet… Do we qualify?

Squeezed middle or squashed bottom?

YOU decide!