Victim advocate warns that violence is on the rise in Cork; soft sentences enable repeat offenders who 'laugh and joke' in court

Victim advocate warns that violence is on the rise in Cork; soft sentences enable repeat offenders who 'laugh and joke' in court
Sally Hanlon of the Support after Crime Service 

THE director of an organisation supporting victims of crime has hit out at the soft sentences that are enabling repeat offenders to make crime a lifestyle.

Sally Hanlon, the director of Support After Crime Services, said the level of violence in Cork is more severe than ever before.

“The organisation has been in existence for 13 years, and the violence and recklessness in the crimes is becoming more severe,” she told The Echo.

“The criminals in these situations have no consideration of the harm they are inflicting on their victims.”

The former Garda said much of the time she is seeing the same faces in court.

“You only need to be in court a half hour to see the same faces. Many of them are joking and laughing with each other, asking ‘which solicitor did you get?’. 

“The truth is, they don’t care. As far as they are concerned, that lifestyle is normal.

“Some criminals have 163 previous convictions, but are still around doing exactly what they want.”

According to data released by the Central Statistics Office, almost half of the prisoners released from Irish jails in 2011 and 2012 were convicted of further crimes within three years.

The figures showed that 48.9% of the criminals released in 2011 had been re-convicted within three years. This compared to 45.8% of those released in 2012.

Ms Hanlon said that much of the time the crime far outweighs the punishment.

“I feel this is letting the victims down. If you were to ask me if the punishments are fitting the crimes I would say no.

“However, if someone was to ask me if a prison sentence would make the criminal think, I wouldn’t be able to answer them. The truth is I don’t know.”

According to Ms Hanlon, the lead-up to a trial is a significantly anxious time for crime victims.

“It’s an anxious time, and a long wait to finding out if the person will plead guilty. They may have had their house burgled by the criminal, but only come face-to-face with them in court.

“Seeing the perpetrator’s face for the first time can be difficult.”

Ms Hanlon detailed her experiences of accompanying people to meet their attackers outside of the courtroom too, as part of a restorative justice initiative. This involved meetings between the victim and offender.

“Restorative justice can’t take place unless offenders are genuinely remorseful. There are instances where the offender is truly remorseful.

“In other cases, the remorse is not genuine and that can be extremely disappointing.”

For many, Ms Hanlon said, the only way to get the true effect of the crime across is through a victim impact statement.

“A guilty plea is worth its weight in gold, but it can also mean that the victim is not needed in court. In this situation, a victim impact statement is the only way of getting across the real impact of the crime to the judge,” she said.

:: Support After Crime Services is a voluntary service for people affected by crime, whether they are a victim or a witness to an offence.

This service is free and confidential. To find out more, call 021 4320555 or email info@
supportaftercrimeservices.ie.

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