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Galway TD wants serial offenders to pay their own legal fees


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway TD wants serial offenders to pay their own legal fees Galway TD wants serial offenders to pay their own legal fees

A Galway TD has been given a commitment by Government that it will consider “hitting serial offenders where it hurts” by forcing them to repay the cost of their free legal aid – from wages or social welfare payments.

Deputy Noel Grealish told the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil last week: “Hitting them where it hurts is the only way that I can see it making these repeat offenders think twice.”

He said repeat offenders were “making a mockery of the law” and there was never any compensation for the victims of their crimes.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there is a difficulty when it comes to free legal aid because there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty enshrined in the Constitution.

Deputy Grealish pointed out that four out of five burglars released from prison in Ireland go on to re-offend within a short period — more than half of them within a year of their release. It was the same with people jailed for public order offences.

“Their victims, the very people they robbed from and whose lives they have seriously disrupted, have to pay for these criminals to get a proper defence, as does every other law-abiding taxpayer in this country.

“Last year, the bill to the taxpayer for providing free legal aid in criminal cases was more than €76 million. In the past seven years, we have paid out in excess of €450 million in free legal aid.

“A large portion of this money is being spent on defending the indefensible — people who have no regard for the law or the consequences of their actions, who have broken the law on countless occasions and who know that every time that they are caught they will get the best defence in court without it costing them one red cent.”

He said that when he had in the past raised the issue of withholding free legal aid to persistent offenders who have broken the law on countless occasions, he had been informed that this would be constitutionally impossible.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the November 17 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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