What do you have to do get an actual jail sentence?
14 February, 2010
Two separate, but similar, stories appeared on the same page of the Irish Times recently.
“Financial controller given suspended sentence. An Australian woman who defrauded her lover’s company of €77,000 after she was appointed as financial controller has been given a suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court”
“Suspended term for two over fraud. Two sisters who fraudulently claimed more than €55,000 in social welfare over a number of years have each received suspended sentences at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.”
These are two clear-cut examples of large-scale fraud, pursued at great expense by the authorities and resulting in successful prosecutions. And yet the judges, respectively Judge Tony Hunt and Judge Delahunt, let the fraudsters walk free from the court in both cases.
I’m sure there is an argument that the convicted parties will probably not re-offend. I’m equally sure that unless people are occasionally put in jail for fraud and theft, more people will be tempted to take a chance on perpetrating such crimes. These are not victimless crimes: they affect us all by increasing the operating costs of businesses and by costing the Exchequer (ie taxpayers) millions in enforcement costs.
Last October, Alice Connors, who had no fewer than 86 previous convictions, mainly for burglaries, and with victims aged from 60 to 84 years, was finally given a substantial jail sentence. This looks like a case of misplaced judicial leniency towards her 86 previous crimes resulting in dozens of elderly people suffering unnecessarily.
As I have noted previously, we in Ireland have proportionately only half as many people in jail as in the United Kingdom, and only one tenth as many as in the United States. I suspect that Ireland and the USA represent two extremes of how to approach the problem; I doubt our crime rate is one-tenth of theirs, just as I doubt our crime rate is half that of the United Kingdom. So who’s right?