Sunday 17 December 2017

Something wrong in our court system

A YOUNG MOTORIST convicted of dangerous driving on the basketball court of his local school has a five months prison sentence imposed in the District Court replaced by 120 hours of community service by a Circuit Court Judge; a businessman who failed to keep proper employee records has District Court fines of €7,000 reduced to €700 in the Circuit Court; a motorist who parked illegally in a residents only parking space has a €300 fine reduced to €60; a €300 fine and a two years driving ban for allowing a person to use a car without insurance is reduced to €50 with no driving ban; a €2,000 fine imposed on a motorist for refusing a breath sample to Gardaí is reduced to €150; a motorist convicted in the District Court of driving without insurance has a two yeas driving ban removed and a fine of €2,000 reduced to €100. And the list goes on and on.

What sort of a crazy court system do we have when one Judge imposes a set of penalties only to have them reduced or removed by a Judge of a higher court? Of course there may be exceptional circumstances where new evidence comes to light and a change in a penalty is required but when it becomes common for the penalties of one court to be removed or reduced by another then it is understandable if the public becomes rather cynical about the entire system.

Someone has to be wrong here: Either the original Judge is being too harsh or the second Judge is being too soft. Whatever the answer the result is a cost to the State in terms of court resources, which do not come cheap. At a time when the State's finances are under such pressure this is an issue which needs to be seriously examined.

Surely the performances of Judges at all levels and how their actions may add costs to the State are more deserving of examination than a few quid being paid to some lowly public sector employee as part of a long standing allowance.

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