Good of society v interests of individual

When all the razzmatazz is stripped from the Paris Hilton story we are left with a very simple situation. A citizen who broke probation for a relatively minor crime was given 45 days in jail. A sheriff decided to release her to house arrest after two days but the judge who sentenced her was having none of it and threw her back in jail.

The judge was right. Clearly, he believes that justice should be seen to be done, that people with influence are not given any special treatment. In other words, the judge sees law enforcement and respect for the law as more important than the needs of any individual citizen. The outcome is bad for the unfortunate citizen but good for American society.

In Ireland, the opposite is usually the case as the recent ODCE/NIB case clearly illustrated. Even though Mr. Curran was part of a major criminal conspiracy a judge decided that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to ban him from company management because it might damage his honesty and integrity. The outcome in this case is good for the individual but very bad for Irish society.

The American judge looks out and acts for the greater good of society, the Irish judge looks in and protects the interests of one dodgy individual thus seriously damaging the credibility of the Irish justice system.

Still waiting for real action on white collar crime

“The Competition Authority’s case into the price fixing of cars consumed all their resources over the three year period it took to bring to trial”

“I believe that cartels are endemic in the industry.”

The above quotes from RTE News on Feb 9th last are indicative of how seriously white collar crime is taken in this country.

The Competition Authority is only provided with enough resources to conduct one investigation into one aspect of one industry. Meanwhile, consumers continue to be robbed of countless millions in the motor industry and any number of other cartels operating with impunity.

In addition to lack of resources for the Competition Authority, the naivety of judges is also a major contributing factor in the continuing rip off of consumers.

Denis Manning, the criminal in this case, spouted the age old excuse of age and ill health and the judge fell for it. This is despite the fact that Manning steadfastly refused to cooperate with the investigation thus prolonging it by up to 18 months.

Crime does pay – If your collar is white

In today’s Irish Times, Arthur Beesley further analyses the Galway oil cartel case that saw JP Lambe, a major criminal, get away with a mere six months suspended sentence and a €15,000 fine.

Lambe was described as “the enforcer’ in this operation where those distributors who wanted to stay honest were bullied and intimidated into towing the line. It is also reported that cartels might be costing Irish consumers as much as €635 million per year.

Let’s compare this case of organised crime to another recent case.

Cara Canavan (33), the mother of two small children was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing €146,000 from the HSE. In her defence, Mrs. Canavan claimed that she is a suicidal manic depressive.

The judge was clear in his reasoning for handing down such a harsh sentence.

‘A sentence had to act as a deterrent not just for the accused person but for others who might commit a similar crime.”

In my opinion the discrepancy between the two sentences can be, at least partly, explained by the colour of their collars. Mrs Canavan is a blue collar worker. When someone from this section of the community commits a crime they must be severely punished as a deterrent – ‘for others who might commit a similar crime”. It goes without saying, of course, that those without collars at all are in need of the most severe deterrents.

Mr Lambe, on the other hand, is a white collar criminal. In some circles, even the use of the word “criminal’ is a bit harsh for these people. Indeed, to my knowledge, the police don’t even include white collar crime in annual reports.

Bank officials who rob millions from their customers, Ansbacher account holders, major tax evaders, cartel enforcers, politicians who receive large amounts of “forgotten’ money and so on.

These people are not “really’ criminals. They’re upstanding members of the community, “robust’ businessmen, committed politicians, whose “good to the community/economy/State, far outweighs any “minor’ infringements of the law.

Crime does pay

In 2001, JP Lambe was asked by a group of people to act as the principal organiser of a multi-million Euro robbery.

Lambe is not a man struggling to exist on the fringes of society. He is a retired businessman, a respected member of his community, a leading figure in the local GAA. He owns his own house, has a good pension and a nice little nest egg of €250,000 in the bank.

Lambe claims (and apparently some very intelligent people are prepared to believe him) that he did not benefit from the robbery of approximately €4.4 million from the people of Galway.

He was apparently just helping out friends when he agreed to organise the illegal price fixing of gas, oil and kerosene. (Oh, and did you hear that the Pope is thinking of converting to Islam?)

Lambe was not shy about achieving his mission. Most of the fuel distributors were happy to cooperate in this robbery but a few refused. Lambe worked hard in his attempts to “induce’ these honest operators to partake in his criminal activity.

Neither was the presiding judge, Katherine Delahunt, in any doubt about the central role played by Lambe in this major crime.

“Without his talent, acumen and knowledge, this kind of distortion could probably not have functioned at any significant level”.

So, major criminal activity involving the theft of millions and the judge is convinced that without Lambe the operation would not have been effective – What was the sentence? Six-months suspended and a €15,000 fine. In other words, this criminal got off.

The message is clear. If you are operating or thinking of organizing a cartel to rob millions from the public – go ahead, the chances of getting caught are tiny. And even if you are caught, it’s likely you will just receive a slap on the wrist.

Scum Solicitors

Outrageous as this case of scum solicitors robbing their clients is, it is just one of thousands of incidences of white collar crime uncovered in recent years in this Banana Republic. The only reason scum like this can operate in this country is because the State itself is corrupt. Quite literally some groups or institutions operate outside the law of the land.

AIB for example is presently investigating itself. When it has completed its investigation it will be allowed to dispense justice as it sees fit. There is no police involvement whatsoever.
Similarly, the legal profession is allowed to police itself. This type of mechanism, supported by the State, allows these people to operate within their own justice system, again with no police involvement whatsoever.

Let’s call a spade a spade – These people have robbed thousands from their vulnerable clients. If Ireland is not a corrupt state, then they will quickly face the full rigor of the law just like ordinary citizens do.

If Ireland is a corrupt state, (which I believe it is) then these people will be will be allowed to decide their own fate outside the rule of law. We are now into day five of this scandal and still no police/State involvement. So far I am correct in my claim that we live in a Banana Republic.