Principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ does not apply universally in Ireland

 

guilty-until-proven-innocent

 

By Anthony Sheridan

There seems to be a great deal of worry amongst Irish establishment figures that the Brazilians may not grant Pat Hickey the protection of the almost universal principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’.

Here’s former CEO of the FAI Fran Rooney on RTE yesterday.

It’s a real concern that the men’s presumption of innocence is being ignored… the whole presumption of innocence is a key issue here.

In light of the above comments it will no doubt come as a great shock to barrister Fran Rooney to learn that the ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ principle does not apply universally in Ireland.

It will come as an even greater shock to anxious establishment figures like Rooney to learn that the principal was abandoned to protect the multi-million Euro Mass card monopoly enjoyed by the Catholic Church.

Any Irish citizen who sells (even one) a Mass card without the express permission of a Catholic bishop is guilty of an offence which may result in a ten year prison sentence and/or a fine of €300,000.

This law is even more draconian than that enacted to combat ruthless drug lords. If (Catholic) Brazilian politicians were to enact such a law Irish establishment figures like Ryan Tubridy, for example, would be choking on their breakfast cereal.

To copper-fasten the law and ensure no citizen dares challenge the financial interests of the Catholic Church Irish politicians inserted the following section into the Charities Act 2009:

Section 99:

(2): In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

So there you have it – in Irish legislation – in black and white – Guilty unless you can prove you are innocent.

Mass cards and avoiding a ten year jail sentence

It is now six years since it became a criminal offence to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop.

It is also six years since I first applied to the bishop of Cloyne for permission to sell Mass cards. Over the years I have received various reasons why permission was not forthcoming.

The last letter I received from the bishop, in March 2014, gave me permission, sort of, to sell unsigned Mass cards. This, however, is wholly unacceptable as I make clear in my reply to the bishop.

29 July 2015

Dear Bishop Crean,

Thank you for your letter dated 24 March 2014.

Since receiving your letter I have been engaged in research and negotiations in preparation for the launch of my business project – the selling of signed and unsigned Mass cards.

I am now at a point where it is impossible for me to proceed without your express permission as required under Section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009.

In your letter dated 24 March 2014 you express the following understanding regarding the selling of unsigned Mass cards:

It is my understanding that the relevant section of the Charities Act refers to the sale of Mass cards which at the time of sale already bear the signature of a priest and thus indicate that a Mass will be offered for a specific intention.

The Bishop has no role in the sale of Mass cards which are unsigned at the time of sale.

If I was confident in your interpretation of the relevant section I would consider proceeding immedately with the sale of unsigned Mass cards.

However, I believe your interpretation is flawed. The relevant section makes no mention of specifically allowing the sale of Mass cards bearing the signature of a priest at the point of sale.

The relevant section makes no mention of, and therefore no distinction between, signed and unsigned Mass cards. It would therefore be very unwise of me to engage in the selling of unsigned Mass cards without your specific permission.

I have consulted with a legal expert on the issue and he is in agreement with my conclusion.

You will understand that I must be very careful in my actions at this point as the punishment for the illegal sale of even a single Mass Card is extremely severe.

A conviction for selling a non-authorised Mass card carries a ten year jail sentence or a fine of up to €300,000.

Furthermore, you will be aware that the law on this matter dispenses with the long-established legal principle of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ and replaces that principle with a ‘guilty until proved innocent’ provision as follows:

In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probibilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

In order to be absolutely safe in proceeding with my business project I require, by law, your formal permission.

I therefore again formally request permission to sell signed and unsigned Mass cards as required under Section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Mass card law protects the Catholic Church from embarrassment?

My application to Archbishop Clifford, my local bishop, for permission to sell Mass cards is still on hold due to an ongoing court case.

If I were to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop I could find myself serving ten years in prison and/or a fine of €300,000.

This punishment is a great deal more severe than that reserved for even the most ruthless criminals.

The draconian law does, however, serve to protect a monopoly worth countless millions to the Catholic Church.

The law also discards the principle of innocent until proved guilty as outlined in Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It only recently dawned on me that this universal right has probably been discarded for the purpose of protecting bishops and the institution of the Catholic Church in general.

Section 99 (2) of the Charities Act, 2009 states:

In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities; that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

This, I believe, is specifically designed to avoid the embarrassing spectacle of a Catholic bishop having to give evidence before a judge in a public court.

Or am I just becoming paranoid in my old age?

Protecting the Mass card monopoly

Two major criminals have been jailed for eight years for carrying out a drive-by shooting.

The two fired a shot into the home of a completely innocent woman and fired another shot as they passed a Garda car.

One of the two has 41 previous convictions.

Any citizen who sells a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop faces up to ten years in prison and/or a €300,000 fine.

Senator Mullen: No principle too precious, no law too draconian

Independent Senator, barrister and militant Catholic Ronan Mullen doesn’t really believe that his fellow politician, Senator Callely, did anything wrong by intentionally misrepresenting his normal place of residence for the purpose of claiming allowances.

I find it hard to see where it could be made out that there was a criminal act per se. A person has to be judged according to the law as it stood at the time they did what they did.

There’s certainly a case, however, for tightening up on the law here so that there would be no doubt but that it would be fraud if a person were to over claim on expenses in such a fashion.

This vague response to what is, in real democracies, a serious crime stands in stark contrast to Mullen’s usual absolute moral judgements when it comes to those who defy the rules of his particular god.

For example, he campaigned long and hard to stop the enactment of the Civil Partnership Bill motivated, principally, by the laws laid down by his Catholic god who ruthlessly condemns practicing homosexuals to everlasting hell.

Mullen and other opponents of the bill were (accurately) described by fellow Senators as dressed up bigots.

Mullen was also deeply involved in the recent enactment of a draconian law which makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card not authorised by a Catholic bishop.

This law effectively restores an absolute monopoly to the Catholic Church that it had previously enjoyed for centuries until recent times when others began to encroach on the lucrative trade.

Neither has this Catholic politician/barrister any qualms about the fact that this law runs contrary to Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which states:

Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

Under this new (religious?) law any person suspected of illegally selling Mass cards is assumed to be guilty until proved innocent.

Those found guilty could face ten years in prison or a €300,000 fine – for selling Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic Bishop.

It’s a case of using a nuclear bomb to crack a nut or to make absolutely sure that anyone silly enough to threaten a very lucrative monopoly are going to be very severely punished.

Mullen’s hypocrisy is typical of those who inhabit the murky world of Irish politics.

When dealing with the dodgy behaviour of a political colleague everything descends into a murky fog of political waffle where accountability is suffocated to death.

Similarly, when it comes to personal political agenda’s no law is too draconian, no principle too precious that it cannot be discarded.

Copy to:
Senator Mullen

Seeking permisson to sell Mass cards

In February this year the Irish government enacted a law which makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop (Charities Act 2009, Section 99).

Contained within the Act is a presumption of guilt until proved innocent. This runs contrary to Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which states:

Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

In light of this new law I decided to engage in the selling of Mass cards and, being a law abiding citizen, wrote to my local bishop to ask for permission.

My local bishop is, temporarily, Archbishop Clifford. Bishop Magee is, er, busy with other matters.

Dear Archbishop Clifford,

As required under Section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009 I request permission to engage in the selling of Mass cards.
Yours sincerely.

Anthony Sheridan

I received the following reply from the pastoral co-ordinator in Cobh.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

Archbishop Clifford has asked me to reply to your letter of 29th April 2009.

The Charities Act 2009 was signed into law by the President on February 28th 2009. However, the Act does not become operative until a commencement order has been issued.

Archbishop Clifford is advised that to date the relevant order has not been issued.

Yours sincerely

The relevant government department confirmed this was indeed the case. When the commencement order was issued I again wrote to the Archbishop for permission engage in the selling of Mass cards and he responded:

Dear Mr. Sheridan.

Archbishop Clifford has asked me to contact you concerning your recent letter to him in which you request permission to engage in the selling of Mass cards.

Before considering your request the Archbishop would like to know to what retail outlets this request refers.

Yours sincerely

My reply:

Dear Archbishop Clifford,

In response to your letter of 2nd October in which you request the names of retail outlets from which I intend selling Mass cards.

My understanding of section 99 (Charities Act, 2009) is that a citizen must first obtain permission from a bishop of the Church or a provincial of an order of priests before engaging in the selling of Mass cards.

I am unaware of any other regulations, laws or conditions (civil or religious) that must be adhered to in order engage in the selling of Mass cards. If such regulations, laws or conditions do exist I would be grateful if you could provide me with details so that I may be in proper compliance with the law.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

Archbishop Clifford has instructed me to reply to your letter of October 20th concerning your request for permission to engage in the selling of Mass cards.

As you may be aware, the particular section of the Charities Act which requires this permission is at present being challenged in the High Court. Archbishop Clifford has decided to defer a final decision on your request pending the outcome of the relevant case.

Yours sincerely

This particular section of the Charities Act is indeed being challenged in the High Court but hopefully the matter will be resolved soon and I can once again apply to the Archbishop for permission to sell Mass cards.

EU Petitions Committee rejects Mass cards complaint

I received a letter today from the EU Committee on Petitions in response to my complaint regarding the criminalisation of those who sell Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic bishop.

Included in the new law is the presumption of guilt until proved innocent which runs contrary to Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which states:

“Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, The Petitions Committee has rejected my complaint. The letter outlines the reasons in bureaucratic language but, effectively, states that the matter doesn’t come within its remit.

I will continue to keep an eye on the implementation of this law so that I can re-apply to the Bishop of Cloyne for permission to sell Mass cards.

Mass cards: Update

I spoke to a very helpful civil servant today in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs regarding the criminalisation of those who sell Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic bishop.

No commencement orders have yet been made and I am informed that because the Charities Act, 2009 involves the setting up of a new regulatory body it could take between two and three years before it is fully implemented.

The good news is that the particular section dealing with Mass cards could be law within two or three months. I will then be in a position to re-apply to the Bishop of Cloyne for permission to sell Mass cards.

Mass card petition: Acknowledgement received

I received a written acknowledgement today from the European Parliament (Petition Unit) in response to my submission regarding the criminalisation of those who sell Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic bishop.

Among other things the letter advises:

“Your petition has been forwarded to the Committee on Petitions which will, first of all, take a decision on its admissibility, i.e. on whether the subject of your petition falls within the sphere of the activities of the European Union. If the committee declares it admissible, it will then examine the substance of your petition.

The letter also advises me that the procedure may take some time.

Mass card law: Update

I checked out the website of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs today regarding the criminalisation of those who sell Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic bishop. Specifically, I wanted to know what a commencement order was and how that affected the enactment of the Charities Act, 2009.

The following is from the website’s Q & A section.

When will the Charities Act come into force?

The enactment of the Bill does not in itself immediately bring the Act into force. It is only when the Minister commences individual provisions sections of the Bill that charities will find themselves with new legal responsibilities.

There is a considerable body of work to be undertaken in preparation for statutory regulation. The Department will be rolling out an implementation plan for the Act.

This plan will ensure that the essential elements are in place to enable the introduction in due course of the statutory regulatory framework provided for in the Act.

In other countries, it has taken a number of years after enactment of the legislation for the new regulatory system for charities to be formally introduced. This is likely to be the case in Ireland also, though some individual provisions of the Act may be commenced before the bulk of the Act is commenced.

I rang the Department and was told by a spokesperson that Section 99, which deals with the selling of Mass cards, should be commenced without any great delay.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the Department’s website and ringing from time to time to check on progress.