Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Citizens V's Prisoners

There is a story in the Irish Examiner today about a statistic that if true is a shocking indictment of how the Irish government protects its citizens from other citizens.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell has agreed to conduct research into bail practices following the disclosure that a quarter of people who met violent deaths last year were killed by offenders out on bail at the time.

An organization called Advocates of the Victims of Homicide is calling on the Minister to tighten up bail laws while the Irish Council for Civil Liberties is against changing the bail laws

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that while it sympathized with victims families, new bail laws were not the answer.

I have to say that I am a little annoyed at the ICCL for that. Ok I understand that their role is to prevent the erosion of civil liberties, but when faced by such an abhorrent statistic sometimes a change in the law is required. I'm not saying throw every person suspected of a crime into jail and leave them there until they prove their innocence, but when a person suspected of a serious violent crime is arrested and there is a genuine risk of them committing more crimes if left of the streets then it is the duty of the judiciary to protect the ordinary citizens from this person.

The argument is often made that a nation is judged by how it threats its prisoners and that is true, but it is only one measure. A nation must also be measured by the protection and care it gives its law-abiding citizens. If a government threats its criminals with special care and love while unleashing them on the public with no control or fear of punishment then that’s not a civilized nation, its anarchy. Today we have a situation where people campaign for the rights of prisoners while old people lock and bar themselves into their isolated homes and live in fear of being beaten to death for the few euros they have saved. We have civil rights campaigners who decry the introduction of Anti-Social Behavior Orders while young adults cause millions of pounds of damage to private property with no fear of punishment. We have solicitors finding legal loop holes to prevent prosecution of speeding and drunk driving cases while hundreds die on the roads every year.

I'm not saying we should introduce a police state. But I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Society must be careful to maintain a balance, and it must not be afraid to act when the rights of its citizens are being eroded. Remember, ordinary citizens have rights too and they must be considered as well the rights of criminals.

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