Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Crime and murder in Ireland

The object of a prison sentence is two-fold. First it is to act as a deterrent the sentence should be of sufficient length as deter anyone from committing the crime. Secondly the length of time that a person is locked up is deemed to be the length of time taken to rehabilitate the prisoner. The function is not to punish. For what is the use of punishing it is not going to reverse the crime. All a sentence can hope to achieve is stop it from happening again whether it be by the convicted or another person. All this is persuming that the Gardai are detecting crime and catching criminals which is another subject I will return to later.

However looking at the Donna Cleary case are these being correctly applied. Just for any of my foreign readers. Basically what happened was seemingly 3 men were refused entrance to a 40th birthday party. The arrived back some time later and fired 5 shots into the window of the house killing Donna Cleary. Some people have been arrested for the murder. One of them Dwane Foster the chief suspect and a known armed robber died in custody 2 nights ago of natural cause. Foul play on the part of the GardaĆ­ is not suspected.

Some people on Today Fm’s Last Word were calling for the death penalty to be brought back in over this crime. Firstly the Death Penalty is wrong. Taking another’s life whether by the state are by a citizen is wrong. But what of the deterrent factor. The only country in the Western World that still murders people (lets call it what it is not execution. Execute has connotations of completing a task not committing mortal sin) America also has the highest murder rate. The deterrent certainly is not working there. Also if the second function in the first paragraph is implemented then it is not going to save any other lives.

But what is happing to our country. Are we full filling the two critea for prison sentences.

The Green party wants to introduce a gun amnesty where people could hand there guns into the local Garda station and not suffer any consequences. This has been quiet successful in places. In Ottawa Canada they ran quiet a successful one where 506 firearms were handed in. So it sounds like a good idea but one of the key quotes from the police chief of Ottawa Vince Bevan. Was that “Our intent was to increase community safety, by reducing the potential of unwanted firearms getting into the hands of those who may use them to carry out criminal acts,” See that is the difference with a gun amnesty in Canada and one in Ireland. In Canada guns are quiet common in Ireland they are all ready in the hands of those who may use them to carry out criminal acts. A gun amnesty is going to do little to curb the rise of gun crime. (But Mr O' Dea might hand his in so it might have some merit :) )

The other day Bertie said that some murders were out on the streets after 7 years. 7 years. While this may indeed solve the second critea and these people are reformed. It does not send out the right message to criminals. The deterrent needs to deter 7 years for murder is certainly no going to do that. If someone thinks they will get 7 years they might be willing to murder. In fact the need for a deterrent over rides the need to rehabilitate. If someone commits the most heinous of crimes and takes a life then they have to lose their liberty for life. As Bertie said life means life. So how do murders get back on the streets.

Enda Kenny suggested in the Dail Debate that it was the Minister who lets murders out. “The sentence for murder in this country is automatically a life sentence and life means life. The reason Malcolm McArthur is still in jail is because the Minister refused to let him out".

But there is no such thing as a mandatory life sentence in Ireland. It is up to the courts to decide the length of the sentence. In a speech at the PD conference in 2004 Michael McDowell declared. That he had

“ended the expectation that life-sentences for murder frequently meant release after 7 to 10 years”

Which is quiet true we don’t expect 7 year life sentences we are shocked by them when they are handed down. So who is to blame, is it the courts or is it the minister.

The responsibility for setting sentences is the judiciaries. So when a weak sentence is handed out it is because of the courts decisions. Tom O’ Malley argued in the Irish Times (subs regd) that the courts are not lenient that if the general public had been in the position to be the judge knowing the full extent of the cases they would give similar judgements. He also argues that in what it is not the sentences that are the deterrent but the likelihood of getting caught and having the sentence applied. While getting the judiciary to hand out tougher sentences may curb crime some what and be welcomed. Unless the law is enforced then it is a useless.

McDowell is bringing in a mandatory sentence for gun possession which is a good thing. But if the Gardai are not catching the criminals it is a useless. Crime in this country is a lot less then in our neighbours. In Ireland there is 25 crimes per 1000 in England and Wales that is 113 per 1000,Scotland 86 per 1000 and Northern Ireland 69 per 1000. So we are doing something right. Crime is caused by many things much of it is social deprivation. Yet every persons favourite model of social inclusion Sweden has a higher crime rate (based on 2001 figures) and homicide rate( based on 2004 figures Swedish (Irish here)). It also has a lower imprisonment per crime and lower police per person ratios then Ireland.(based on 2001 figures). I think the Swedish figures show that Irelands stronger law enforcement decreases crime. But crime is rising. So we have to deal with it. This has to be dealt on a number of levels. Ranging from measures to lessen the effects of social depravation but more inportantly more Gardai and tough sentencing. Basically as there is so many factors in this it is hard to proportion blame. Crime in Ireland is low. But rising prosperity gives rise to more crime. So we need to act. We need more Gardai on the beat and of tough sentencing.

We have to options either we put our hands in the air, resigner our selves to the fact that there is no more we can do or  we reform our system in such a way that truly deters people from commiting murder. Which ever path we chose it will not bring back Donna but hopefully it will lead us to a place where life is not so cheap.

Update 10 March : From Limerick Blogger. A third of all gun crime in Ireland is in Limerick. Limerick City has just under 2% of the population

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I AM AN IRISH AMERICAN; I HAVE SEEN CRIME IN THIS COUNTRY IMPRISON THOSE WHO DO NOT COMIT CRIMES , THEY STAY IN THERE HOMES, AFRAID TO COME OUT. IS THUS WHAT YOU WANT FOR IRELAND. I AM CATHOLIC ALLSO AND DO NOT BELEAVE IN THE DEATH PENALTY, HOWEVER YOU EITHER START BUILDING THOUSANDS OF PRISONS, OR ADOPT A DEATH PENALTY P.S. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT ; DO NOT DELUDE YOUR SOVERENTY, AS WE DID . YOU THINK TOU GOT PROBLEMS NOW .

seanaway said...

Very nicely written piece and well-balanced. However, statistics are rarely a good measure of society. I lived in Sweden for 4 years and I found it aLOT safer than Ireland. the staistics you quote are based on Police reported crimes. This is not a direct indicator of crime levels, meerly reported crime levels. This is an important distinct difference. People in Ireland are RAPIDLY losing faith in the policing service. Many people are now of the mind set that there is no point in reporting crime as nothing ever happens afterwards. I've been waiting for months for a Superintendent to make a decision on a complaint. So far, nothing. this despite the fact that the offence was clearly captured on video. I would think twice about wasting my time in future. There is no one solution to crime, but social structure does have a great deal to do with levels as does an effective deterrent. Of course, the bottom line is always the person. Does he/she have a moral bottom line or not?

Godwhacker said...

I have recently undergone a conversion (not to be mistaken for a sex change). I used to be for the death penalty, but after much reflection, I have changed my mind. The crux for me is the contradiction - how can you outlaw murder by government sponsored murder?

My opinion has not changed on the right to gun ownership. Although our constitution protects the right to own a gun, the U.S. is not the "wild west" that it is made out to be. Many local governments have restrictive bans on firearms. Coincidentally, these are often the cities with the highest murder rates. Rural areas have the highest level of gun ownership, the lest restrictive gun laws, and the lowest murder rate.

While I oppose the death penalty, I would not hesitate to use deadly force to protect myself or my family. I consider the right to self defense a right inherent to any human being.

Simon said...

I will write a full post on gun control soon. I don't think protects people.

Anonymous said...

America unlike Ireland is multi cultural, which Ireland is fast becoming. Gone are the days of white Irish catholics and protestant, as more foreign cultures and races arrive on our shores get ready for a real blood bath as new gang lords appear (or not) in our courts, its time to close the doors and try and keep Ireland intact, I know its all political correctness these days but you only have to look at the once Great Britain its *******, you wouldnt ask you dog to live there now

Anonymous said...

I live in America and I have lost 3 people to Murder. One of them was a dear friend who was raped and bludgend to death by a complete stranger and through all of this I still stand firm when I say that, I do not believe that the state killing the Murderer of Kate would Change a thing. Kate is dead, the way she died is unjust and awful. The man who killed her should be punished, but not by death for it will not bring kate back even her parents said this at the trial and asked that he have life in prison. I would much prefer him to stay in Jail and loose his freedoms. Life is something not to be delt lightly with. Those who commit the crime of taking another's life should be stripped of their everyday freedoms and live a life of imprisonment, not a quick death, but a life of reflection that they have lost the life they once knew and enjoyed because they made a choice, and now they have to live with that choice.

Anonymous said...

Nice skewing of statistics there.....

1. The Limerick Garda Area covers much more than Limerick City; it includes a lot of the Mid-West. So the "third of all gun crime" cannot be directly allocated to Limerick's 2% of the population, as implied in your sentence; if you include the county, Limerick has 4.3% of the population, and if you include the remaining areas covered by the Garda division there, you'd get a proper figure of about 7% of the population.

2. You've explicity highlighted Limerick (a) by mentioning it and (b) by putting the sentence in red. Why ? Where is the equivalent figure for Dublin, which has had 12 murders to date this year and had 34 last year, the same year that 66 take place nationwide, giving a FATAL gun crime figure for Dublin of 51.5% - and that's not including all of the non-fatal ones - if you include those!

Simon said...

That still means that limerick has a greater porrotion then Dublin. ALso the red is a link to the source

The Knitter said...

Most crime is hidden. Crime statistics are based on reported crime. From seanaway it appears that reporting a crime to the Gardai is STILL a waste of time. 20 years ago I was attacked in the street by a well-known vicious thug. Gardai actually upbraided me for not dealing violently with the perpetrator! That said Ireland is by no means a lawless and violent society. More people are aware of their human and civil rights. Let's not forget that over 100,000 children were incarcerated illegally in church-managed Institutions between 1922 and 1982. What happened to many many of these children at the hands of the church is well-known but while these abuses was happening most people remained silent out of fear of the church. If these criminal abuses were added to the crime statistics for those years it would show Ireland as a very violent and sick society (which it was). I'm sure fear is a factor in the reporting of crime.

Anonymous said...

i am a irish american , i have been there last summer and the crime and drug rate is very bad .. for the economy and the people both the kids and adults .... cant they do anything to help us ? rember when ireland was so nice ??? I DO !!!~

Anonymous said...

The murdere ratee in Sweden
In 2003, there were 189 homicides reported in Sweden. In 2001, there were 169 reported, which gives a rate of approximately 2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. This, however, is due to serious shortcomings in the way that the Swedish police report crimes.

For example, in the year 2002, 223 homicides were reported, but the actual number of homicides was only between 91-99.

This was due to murders being committed abroad but filed in Sweden, double reports, people being reported as murdered if the police had but a suspicion of foul play (their deaths remaining filed as homicides, even if the person later turned out to have died of natural causes). Taking this into consideration, this gives Sweden little more than 1 homicide per 100,000 inhabitants. This figure is in line with most European countries, which also have a level of between 1-2.

If we used the same method to count murderes in this country we'd be way past the Swedish figures.

Simon said...

Interesting have you any sources on that. Or where I can read more about it.