Trevor Laffan: Selfish, self-pitying... but deep down, criminals are tormented

Criminals are a selfish bunch, they have no respect for law and order and couldn’t care less about their victims, their neighbours, or their community, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column
Trevor Laffan: Selfish, self-pitying... but deep down, criminals are tormented

BEHIND BARS: Many prisoners like to give the impression they don’t have a care in the world, but that’s often far from the case

PADDY O’Gorman was interviewing people on RTÉ radio as they were coming and going from the local district court in Dublin. He wanted to get an insight into their personal lives and how they ended up appearing before a judge.

One guy told Paddy he had just spent the night in a cell in his local garda station. He had been arrested the previous evening for “burglary and breakin’ and enterin’ and things like that”.

He wasn’t sure what the specific charge was, but that didn’t bother him too much because he had more pressing issues with the justice system. He complained that the blankets in his cell were dirty and he thought it was a disgraceful way for him to be treated.

Another character Paddy spoke to was equally unhappy because his partner was sent to prison for 13 months and that was making his life difficult. She was caught stealing and, because she was in jail, he couldn’t go to work. He had to stay at home to mind the five children, but that wasn’t the only thing bothering him.

He brings his kids to the prison to see their mother every Sunday and he had a grievance because the kids have to take their shoes off and face sniffer dogs as the prison officers try to prevent visitors smuggling drugs into the prison.

It’s hard on his partner too because she finds it difficult being away from her family. Maybe she should have thought about that a bit sooner.

There were others with similar stories, and the common denominator was the unfairness of it all and how badly the system was treating them. It wasn’t their fault so there was no question of them accepting any responsibility for the situation they found themselves in. The world was against them.

That’s the thing with criminals, they’re a selfish bunch. They have no respect for law and order and couldn’t care less about their victims, their neighbours, or their community. They refuse to accept responsibility for their actions because they see themselves as the real victims.

Some are, I suppose. If there is a history of criminality in a family, then it will be more difficult for kids to avoid it. It’s almost part of their DNA so there’s an inevitability about it.

Others come from disadvantaged backgrounds with little education and simply drift into that life by falling in with the wrong crowd and making bad choices.

I came across many guys in my time who dedicated their lives to crime and, in most cases, they ended up with nothing to show for their efforts. Even those who had some level of success were still missing a decent quality of life.

Most of them had issues with alcohol, drugs or gambling, or a combination of all three. They had no long-term strategy and the money they got from their illegal activities was generally blown on feeding their habit.

There was no such thing as saving for the rainy day or providing security for their families.

Their ill-gotten gains disappeared as quickly as they arrived, up their nose, down their throat or on the back of some useless horse. It’s probably still the same.

At first glance, it might seem as if they don’t have such a bad life. They hang around all day doing nothing productive with no responsibility. They don’t work so they’re free to come and go as they please and, like bats, they come out at night to annoy the rest of us.

Occasionally, they might do a little time in prison, but they’re soon back out to carry on as normal.

Their time inside gives them a new notoriety and the opportunity to sport a few bad tattoos as proof of their incarceration, which adds to the tough guy image.

It’s only an image though because real life is different.

They like to give the impression they don’t have a care in the world, but that’s far from the case. They’re not as tough as they think they are, and the reality is that many find it difficult to cope with their chaotic lifestyles.

Deep down, they’re tormented, and it bothers them because they know they’re going nowhere. Their lives are a mess.

For example, Aaron Brady’s, recent trial for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe gave us a small insight into the distorted mindset of these people.

Brady was known to gardaí as a petty criminal prior to becoming involved in the robbery of Lordship Credit Union in Dundalk in 2013. During the robbery, Brady, who was armed with a shotgun, ran to the garda car as it arrived on the scene and shot Detective Garda Donohoe in the face at point blank range as he got out of the car. He died instantly.

Brady fled to New York and claimed he was having a great life and making lots of money on building sites. Living the dream.

But that wasn’t the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

His true feelings were often expressed to his local barman after a feed of alcohol. He admitted feeling sorry for himself because he could never return home. The guilt of the murder was getting to him. He was a wanted man and longed for someone to pity him. “You wouldn’t know what it’s like to do the things I’ve done,” he told the barman.

On the other hand, Brady couldn’t keep his mouth shut and that proved to be his eventual undoing.

He told anyone who would listen that he was the man who had killed the garda. He liked the notoriety of being a gangster.

In the real world, he’s a nobody, probably facing life in prison where, hopefully, the blankets will be to his liking.

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