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President Jimmy Carter and Irish Crime Figures

17th of August

We have just published the ISME Annual Crime Survey results and in a sea of shocking figures one particular percentage stands out – not just because of the size of that figure but more importantly what it could mean for our democracy.

Our survey shows that:98% of SME business owners see the judicial system as ineffective in the fight against crime. 

‘If it’s broke, don’t fix it’

Back in 1977 the US President Jimmy Carter had a Director of the Office of Management and Budget called T. Bert Lance. Interestingly it is Mr. Lance who is said to have coined the phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. As so often happens in Ireland we seem to have turned this pithy phrase on its head and coined a new one. That is, ‘If it’s broke, don’t fix it’.

The law being brought into disrepute

Just 2% of our respondents see the judicial system as effective. That is simply a staggering figure. What are we paying taxes for to run a judicial system if a massive majority of those affected by business crime or crime against business have no faith in it? This is a classic case of the law being brought into disrepute. The reasons for what has happened could stretch from a lack of prison places which in turn creates a revolving door policy in our prisons. It could also be down to poor policing where culprits are not caught. It could also be that lawyers are no good at securing successful prosecutions.

The legal ‘untouchables’

Regarding policing we’ve already seen the under-reporting of crime figures by An Garda Síochána, according to both the CSO and to the Garda Inspectorate. And regarding the prosecution of alleged criminals in court, could this have anything to do with barristers, whose archaic practices are seemingly untouchable by government despite warnings from the Troika, who insist on ‘multi-casing’ in case they miss out on a brief fee. Can a barrister really concentrate on one case while he or she has two more cases running in different courts?

Falling down

When something is ‘broke’ then you should fix it. If a massive 98% think it’s ‘broke’ then it’s ‘broke’. Laws that are not applied make a mockery of the entire legal system. If people lose confidence in the legal system then we’re all in trouble. For those of you who have seen Michael Douglas in the 1993 movie, ‘Falling Down’ you will remember a crime that drove an ordinary man to take matters into his own hands.

Northern Ireland was nearly destroyed when the paramilitaries took over entire sections of Belfast and Derry under the guise of applying their version of the law because the legal system in Northern Ireland was discredited. In applying their version of the law these same paramilitaries killed, maimed and ran rackets from drugs to fuel laundering. This is what happens when the legal system is ‘broke’ and not fixed. This is exactly what we need to be eternally vigilant of.