The Director of Public Prosecutions, James Hamilton, gave a very interesting interview on The Week in politics last Sunday.
He believes that expert juries are needed to tackle the rise in white-collar crime. He also spoke about the difficulties posed by the absence of a whistleblower’s charter.
The following are some of the answers he gave during the interview followed by my comments.
Why have you chosen this time to outline your views on white collar crime?
I think the whole question of financial regulation has become a very topical one and we’re obviously in an era where we’ve moved from the former idea of light regulation into a different mode. I anticipate that in the future we’re going to be seeing more files in the area of white collar crime and therefore it’s an appropriate time to look at whether or not we have the appropriate tools to do that.
The whole area of financial regulation has been topical since, at least 1979, when the criminal politician Haughey gained power and banks and other financial institutions were given a free hand to engage in criminal activity without fear of accountability.
Many countries, especially America, now regret the policy of light touch regulation and, unlike Ireland, are taking strong measures to rectify the situation.
Irish governments have always followed a policy of no regulation whatsoever, light touch regulation was and is irrelevant in the Irish ‘Wild West’ financial sector.
Practically nothing has been done to bring the financial criminals to justice and the little that has been done is nothing more than an attempt to fool the international community that Ireland is a normal, functional state.
There is no requirement for special juries, simple law enforcement will resolve the problem of white collar crime.
Why do you think a whistleblowers charter is now necessary in this country?
Essentially, a decision was made not to have whistleblower legislation back in 2007. The main reasoning behind that decision seems to have been that whistleblower legislation might cut across our system of light regulation and wasn’t appropriate given that that was the type of legislation we had at the time. I think there’s a case for looking again at that.
What? Whistleblower legislation might cut across our system of light regulation? Only a fool would put forward never mind actually believe such drivel.
The reason whistleblower legislation was rejected in 2007 and the reason it is still not even being considered is simple. If such legislation existed, the watertight protective systems set up by politicians and operated by so called regulators would fail thus exposing the criminals operating within the Irish financial sector.
Some may wonder whether our existing laws are up to the job?
Some aspects of it are quite robust. For example, in 2001, we amended our Prevention of Corruption Act and strengthened them in quite a significant way by introducing a presumption that where a payment is made to an official and that includes Ministers, TDs and Senators who makes a decision affecting a citizen that’s there’s a presumption that the money is paid corruptly.
There have been significant prosecutions under that legislation.
Significant prosecutions – who, when? I rang the DPPs office for a list and was met with the standard reply.
Oh no, Mr. Sheridan, that’s privileged information, we couldn’t possibly give that out.
When I pointed out that any such prosecutions were likely to have taken place in a public court accompanied by widespread media and public comment I was told to put my request in writing.
The letter is in the post.