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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 24 November, 2014

‘Crime hurts, justice should heal’: Law would force burglars to pay their victims’ costs

“The essence of the bill is that the victim is now thought of in court,” independent TD John Halligan has said of his proposed law.

Sally Hanlon, founding member of Support After Crime Services, with independent TDs John Halligan and Finian McGrath.
Sally Hanlon, founding member of Support After Crime Services, with independent TDs John Halligan and Finian McGrath.
Image: Hugh O'Connell via TheJournal.ie

A NEW LAW being proposed by an independent TD would force convicted burglars to repay the cost of what they have stolen to their victim.

John Halligan, a deputy for Waterford, will introduce his Restorative Justice Reparation to Victims Bill in the Dáil tonight describing it as a “landmark” bill that will send “a clear message to burglars that there is a price to be paid for breaking into someone’s home”

However, the government has said this evening it will be opposing the bill due to concerns related to the rights of victims, the rights of accused persons and the practical difficulties it could create for the criminal justice system.

Halligan said that the bill was about ensuring that where “crime hurts, justice should heal” and added: “The essence of the bill is that the victim is now thought of in court.”

The bill will make it compulsory for those convicted of burglary to pay for the damage they caused to a property with deductions, estimated to be in the region of 20 per cent, are taken from their income or, if required, their social welfare payment.

The bill also proposes that the courts recognise when an offender assists in the recovery of stolen goods, or when reparation is voluntarily made pre-trial.

“Burglary rates rocketed during the recession, increasing by an average of 13 per cent between 2004 and 2012,” Halligan said, adding that in some parts of the country this went up to as high as 40 per cent.

“Criminals know there are fewer gardai on the roads and, as a result, they know there is less chance of getting caught.

“There is no minimum sentence for burglars in this country and a huge proportion of burglars – including serial offenders – are walking away with suspended sentences. What I am proposing is a deterrent of a very different nature – one that puts the victim first.”

Halligan said that very many people whose homes are broken into are those who are on social welfare who have no home insurance.

“Most of the families who are burgled are usually the families in poorer communities. So it is an issue,” Dublin North TD Finian McGrath, who is supporting the bill, said.

Read: Court of Criminal Appeal says eight year sentence for firearms offence was ‘excessive’

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