Mar 122012
 

I wrote last week about Claire Nolan, a convicted drug dealer, who was found guilty of deliberately crushing a man to death with her car.    Today, Claire Nolan was sentenced to six years in jail for ending this man’s life, which is coincidentally the same amount of time Paul Begley received for avoiding tax on the garlic he imported from China.

Comparisons are inevitable, with people asking, understandably, if smuggling garlic is a crime as serious as deliberately taking another person’s life, but I think the two cases raise a more fundamental question, and it’s this.  Is a term in prison the best we can come up with when punishing crimes?  Imprisonment is such a blunt, unrefined instrument that it inevitably invites odious comparisons like that between Nolan and Begley, but it’s a mistake to use such a crude measure as duration of sentence to draw conclusions.

Requiring a judge to boil everything down to one single number is simply insane.  It’s like holding up score cards at an evil ballroom dancing competition but that’s pretty much what the judiciary are expected to do, and ultimately, the number they pronounce is meaningless, because for the most part, prison is meaningless, dehumanising and counter-productive.  The people who should be kept away from society — dangerous criminals — just get worse behind bars.  They mix with their own kind, they build relationships with their own kind, and when they get out, they’re straight back into the activities that put them behind bars.

What’s more, prison isn’t a deterrent for these people.  I recently had to go to a Garda station to pay a parking fine I had unfortunately overlooked.  I didn’t want to pay it, but the letter was quite insistent.  Pay this or go to jail, you bastard!

Three separate Gardai in the station surprised me by apologising.  One even said It’s only the decent people who pay these fines.  The rest of them go to jail for a couple of hours and then they’re out.

I paid the fine because, as a lawyer friend put it to me, That place isn’t for civilians.

Indeed.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have prisons.  I think we need prisons to keep dangerous people off our streets, and I think that includes the likes of Claire Nolan, a violent and unpredictable criminal, who took a man’s life and then torched the weapon, a car, in a deliberate attempt to destroy the evidence.  On the other hand, I also think Paul Begley is a criminal, but as has been pointed out, he was paying off his debt to the Revenue at the rate of €33,000 per month and therefore, the case against him appears not only to be vindictive but also contrary to common sense.  As a result of his jailing, the State won’t receive the remainder of his repayments, but it will be put to the very great expense of securely housing a man who is no threat to anyone walking the streets.

If we had a proper restorative justice system in this country, instead of the Victorian, knee-jerk impulse to jail people, we might have a much less dysfunctional society.  After all, incarceration is the very thing that gave us our current crop of violent criminal families, and when I say incarceration, I’m not talking about the state-run prison system.  I’m referring to the abduction and imprisonment of thousands of young boys in industrial schools, where they learned about degradation, violence, humiliation, dehumanisation, sexual abuse and resentment.  Scratch the surface of any Irish crime gang and you’ll find grandfathers who were locked up by the Christian Brothers, beaten and abused for the crime of being poor.  Scratch the surface of any neighbourhood you consider threatening or dangerous and you’ll find the same thing.

Prison alone is not enough.  Our judges are asked to ponder complex issues and reduce them to a meaningless scalar quantity, but worryingly, many of them justify this nonsense with inflated talk of calibrating their sentences when in reality they’re just thinking of a number.  I wonder how many of our judges would be up to the task if a government decided to do something about this blunt instrument and introduced a range of sanctions including punishments designed to reflect the loss inflicted on the victims?  Not quite an eye for an eye.  Perhaps more a loss for a loss but with the hope of becoming better.

We can’t go on running a prison system that offers no hope of producing anything but embittered, ignorant, uneducated, dehumanised and resentful recidivists.  If this is the best we can manage, we’re not very good, are we?  This is not something for judges to deal with.  This is a job for the legislators we elect, but unfortunately, our country is gripped in the stranglehold of the most pernicious whip system in all of Europe, so I wouldn’t hold out much hope.

We all laughed when we heard that the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything was 42.

What’s the difference between that and saying that Garlic Smuggling equals 6, or Killing by Car equals 8 minus 2?

 

  19 Responses to “Is Garlic-Smuggling Worse Than Killing a Man?”

Comments (19)
  1.  

    All true Bock, and it occurs to me that should the business fail, it will be a double whammy own-goal, there will be another 150 people looking for work with the attendant lost revenue. I sincerely believe this was a knee-jerk sentence, with the Establishment running true-to-form.

  2.  

    It is also coincidental that in sentencing Oliver O’Grady, Judge Nolan remarked that ” He had not been rehabilitated in the prison system ”

    There is little doubt that Paul Begley, should he serve his 6 years will emerge a very different man.

    I am open to correction on the following, it is my understanding regarding what might be termed in the future as ” Garlicgate ” that the Chinese flooded the U.S. market with cheap garlic in 2000, subsequently making it uncompetitive for U.S. growers, they changed to other crops, but as garlic prices rose sharply around 2006 the U.S. growers could not produce and revert fast enough and a quota system was introduced allowing the Chinese to export 40,000 tons per year, when this quota was exceeded the tariff rose to 232 %.

    Now we enter an arena of non compliance with what could be deemed a too stringent quota to achieve competition in an open market, that stringency serves to encourage illegal activity and opens an entire can of worms as to the structure of manipulating markets.

    It is indeed a rarity in Ireland for a maximum sentence to be handed down for even the most heinous crimes.

    The ” Coincidental ” sentencing in these two cases are sending a very clear message, Do not attempt to manipulate the system but if you kill a man while in a drug fuelled rage you will recieve the same sentence but unlikely to be the maximum sentence.

  3.  

    Its my understanding that Begley was very unlucky in that he was dealing with customs and excise and not the gardai , customs and excise have ridiculous minimum sentences that they can impose and the judge has no say in the matter . I even heard that the judge apologised to Begley as he passed the sentence .

  4.  

    Its my understanding that Begley was very unlucky in that he was dealing with customs and excise and not the gardai , customs and excise have ridiculous minimum sentences that they can impose and the judge has no say in the matter . I even heard that the judge apologised to Begley as he passed the sentence .

  5.  

    Er Bock? Are Martin and James twins?

  6.  

    Damn. I don’t get caught too often but these evil twin personas outwitted me.

  7.  

    Right, I have the Garlic, and you’ve already researched the best deal on sharpened stakes….

  8.  

    Let us be clear about one thing. He was repaying the money that was not his to begin with. If we apply that to all theft cases then stealing becomes ok, as long as you give it back. Rob a bank for example but avoid prison by promising to give the lolly back. Is this really how we want to deal with such crimes. This was a case of premeditated fraud conducted over a long period of time. The company has been operating without it’s crooked leader for some time now as he had resigned some time ago, so the employees are safe. If however they are not then blame must be levelled at Begleys door not the justice system. Too many of us have tried competing against similar individuals who move the goal posts to suit their own needs and honest business folk and their companies and employees go to the wall. He isn’t Begley of Sherwood, he wasn’t giving the garlic away. He stole got caught and got punished. Seems like justice in this case was done.

  9.  

    No one is denying that Begley commited a crime. Let us assume that the six year sentence was fair and just. Was the six year sentence for killing a man also fair and just? Previous crimes should have a bearing. To the best of my knowledge Begley had no previous convictions. Nolan had 15. Nolan also burnt out the car to destroy evidence, another crime. The concern here should be the lenient sentance handed out to Nolan, not the sentence given to Begley. It is becoming the norm in this country to not sentence women.

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-in-the-deranged-moral-order-that-we-inhabit-women-can-only-ever-be-victims-3051988.html

  10.  

    Kevin Myers is a complete and total misogynist.
    He doesn’t seem to like women at all.

    Have a read of this from him a few weeks back.
    We all look up to Jordan according to Myers.

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-what-is-going-on-amongst-the-female-sex-that-so-many-of-its-members-are-prepared-to-undergo-cosmetic-surgery-3015785.html

    Someone with mammy issues is little kevin.

  11.  

    “But in the developed world, the goddesses of such mutilation, Katy Price and Joan Rivers, and even the absurd Jocelyn Wildenstein, are almost inspirational heroines for millions of women. Why? ”

    He’s having a laugh surely.
    Let’s switch that shall we.
    See how this sounds.

    But in the developed world, the gods of such mutilation, Burt Reynolds and Mickey Rourke, and even the absurd Louis Walsh, are almost inspirational heroes for millions of men. Why?

    Why god damn it.

  12.  

    It’s not immediately obvious what this has to do with garlic smuggling.

  13.  

    Blame No 8 Bock.
    I don’t think he’s a misogynist, but he posted something from that Myers fella. He’s definitely one.

    Anyways, back to the garlic.
    Definitely stinks.
    I think when one eats garlic, one should eat a mint.

    Alright.. alright.
    “Is garlic smuggling worse than killing. ”
    It all depends on who got kilt.

  14.  

    The logic being that if Myers was wrong about one thing, he must be wrong about everything?

  15.  

    He seems wrong about an awful lot. Wasn’t he one of the journalists protesting against ‘new media’ recently? Wrong.
    That women can only be victims? Wrong again.
    That millions of women look up to Jordan and Joan Rivers.. definitely wrong.

    Anyways, I find if a man is a misogynist he’s always one.
    He’s all about postering in my opinion. And he has the gall to go on about anyone being able to set up a website. As if him spewing his shite for a paper, makes his musings more authoritative.
    Not.

  16.  

    As you know, ad hominem argument has no value, and this site has always tried to avoid it. If he’s wrong in the article quoted, feel free to point out where the errors are.

  17.  

    @ FF1 “Kevin Myers is a complete and total misogynist.
    He doesn’t seem to like women at all. ”

    Myers is an open critic of what he calls the sisterhood and its representatives. I have not read anything where he criticises women for being women, In the article you refer to he is criticising the altering of womens bodies for cosmetic reasons and is seeking to understand why SOME women do this. How is this anti women?

    The papers are full of letters regarding the sentencing of Begley. I have not seen one letter refer to the sentencing of Nolan.

    Perhaps there is a hint of misandry in your approach?

  18.  

    Not at all No.8. I think Claire Nolan was a complete animal the night she murdered Mr. Duffy. And drugs are no excuse. Why is it that lots of people get drunk and high and don’t become vicious?
    I’m not sure of all the details but I think there was doubt over the murder charge as opposed to manslaughter as she claimed she couldn’t stop her car, that she couldn’t find the brakes. Sounds like bull to me. But I think that’s the difference between manslaughter and murder – whether there was intent.

    My point is this. That the injustice in sentencing is across the board. It’s not gender specific. You can’t make an assertion because of one case here or there, for either gender. The problem is the legal system. I think Myers reasoning just shows his bias.

    I’ve nothing really to say on that article from him on women and surgery. He could do with some himself. The minger.

  19.  

    I’ve been mulling this over for the past couple of days, and I find I profoundly disagree with XLR8 in post # 8, for these reasons.

    Begley did not set the rate of duty on Garlic. That was done in a faraway land by people who saw that the Chinese growers had produced a product, at a cheaper price than they could, or perhaps would be prepared to, and decided to tip the balance in their own favour. So they set an artificially high rate of duty, wholly designed to disadvantage the Chinese product and enhance their own. In other words, ensure people buy “their” goods at the expense of someone else.

    Is that dishonest? Does anyone else share my disgust? It certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At the very least it is morally suspect and as unsavoury as say, gerrymandering.

    Begley, decides he can use this situation to the advantage of his import Company, so he colludes with his supplier to lie on delivery dockets. His supplier gets the order, His Company gets the difference in duty. The Company would of course be liable for the corporation tax attracted by the increased profit.
    But he was found out, agreed to repay, (with added penalties), and prepared himself to accept his punishment. I bet he was knocked sideways!

    So, let the punishment fit the crime!

    In 2005 a Cork businessman in the insurance industry was found to have underpaid the Revenue. That is the Irish Revenue, the one that matters, as opposed to some office in Brussels, that in truth, no-one gives a flying shite about. Once all the penalties were added, his bill was for 6.5 million. this guy served no prison time at all.

    So, let the punishment fit the crime.

    These two cases are I feel, similar enough in nature to be considered side by side.
    Either Begley’s sentence was just, and yer man from Cork had a very fortuitous escape, (along with a list of others), or, Begley’s sentence is not just.
    If it is the latter, we should be very concerned indeed.

    Or am I talkin’ shite?

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