Last week, three young men were jailed for a viscious attack on two brothers who had just arrived that day as US tourists in Dublin. The brothers were in Temple Bar when they saw the men mugging a man on the ground. When they tried to intervene, they were savagely attacked. One was left with permanent facial surgery and still has glass embedded under his eye, and the other was scarred and had his arm broken. Depressingly, the young Americans tried to flag down a taxi for help but none would stop. Ireland of the Welcomes, my bloodied eye.

The three men were given sentences of three to five years and a fourth was previously sentenced. But what is really depressing is, despite the fact that the attackers had almost 100 previous convictions between them for a variety of offences, none of them had done a single day in jail. Instead, as Justice Pat McCartan (above) said in his damning judgement, the four had availed of an ‘overly protective system’ for juvenile offenders and had taken the ‘well-worn path of a criminal system not in any way adequately resourced or capable of dealing with them.’

The violent offenders were able to avail of all the alternatives to custodial sentences, such as community services, probation supervision and fines. The judge appealed to legislators to consider this damning reality ‘as it is a recurring feature of these courts’. As it is, the system is ‘incapable of dealing with violent young men who prowl the streets taking their opportunities as they arrive’.

One of the attackers had 69 previous convictions. Another had 26 convictions, but his barrister told the court, in mitigation – all three had Senior Counsel, presumably paid for with free legal aid – that he was a ‘promising footballer.’ What a joke.  Another attacker was described by his counsel as coming ‘from a respectable family and had worked as a joiner for 7 years.’ And the attacker with 69 previous convictions was now ‘very remorseful and wanted to apologise to the Russell brothers.’

Perhaps, but clearly, the ‘community service’ and ‘probation supervision’ that these man got instead of jail had little effect and so they, as well as we, the ordinary public, have had to live with the consequences.

But the criminal system is back to front now, with any amount of aids, leniencies and ‘social excuses’ being made for our recidivist criminals. Judge McCartan’s welcome remarks came, for example, on the same day that a man who had previously got 3 years for visciously assaulting his girlfriend, was given a further 32 months jail after he went and savagely attacked her again – while he was out on bail. Why was this man out on bail?

The judge said he was a violent and ‘very, very aggressive man’, who had 34 previous including drug dealing, burglary and of course assault. And yet still the man got bail and went on to re-offend. The terrified woman must be wondering, as many of us do, how she can ever rely on the system to protect here

The residents of Roscrea certainly do. They have taken to their streets to protest against the scourge of drug dealing in their Tipperary town and the upsurge in crime. And it is the same in other places. Last week, RTE Drivetime programme has been visiting other such towns, including Dromahair, County Leitrim and Edenderry in County Offaly where, as one man said, ‘we see the same people re-offending locally while out on bail.’

And yet, back in leafy Dublin, our do-gooding liberals and quango experts think there is too much use of jail and incarceration and that certain parties, such as the media, have been ‘over-reacting’ to crime. They accuse politicians who say they want to get tough on crime as electioneering. As if it was a bad thing to want to reduce crime and prosecute offenders!


Way too much of the debate about crime and the law now seems to be experts talking about the rights of the accused, and the welfare of prisoners and the ‘social conditions of those breaking the law’. Do these experts realise how offensive this is to the forgotten people who are actually victims of crime? Or do they know how offensive it is to law-abiding working class communities to hear this sort of let-off talk for criminals because of their deprived backgrounds, especially when the same communities have to suffer much more from crime and anti-social behaviour than do the affluent neighbourhoods of these so-called experts.

It is time we got real about crime in this country and about our indulgent legal system and Justice McCartan’s remarks are a welcome wake-up call to our present expensive and ineffective approach.