The system didn’t decide to prosecute Gail O’Rorke for attempting to assist with a suicide, but it did put her through hell for the crime of being a loyal friend. One or more individuals chose to prosecute, for reasons that are hard to understand since, prima facie, it was far from obvious that Gail O’Rorke might be guilty of anything at all, and that’s the way the court saw it in the end, finally acquitting her of all charges.
We needn’t have any illusions about what this woman has endured in the name of justice. Gail O’Rorke has been through horror at the hands of the Irish justice system, a system that doesn’t make decisions but does inflict misery.
So much for that.
But will the Irish justice system pay Gail O’Rorke’s defence costs?
No it will not.
Will it compensate her for four years stolen from her life?
Will it help her to undo the unspeakable emotional suffering she and her family endured as a result of this prosecution?
That’s the disgrace of our criminal justice system, by contrast with the civil courts. If somebody sues you, and you win, you’ll be awarded your full costs, including any reasonable expenses such as expert witnesses. You’ll be free to counter-sue for loss of earnings, emotional distress and a variety of other losses inflicted on you by the other side’s failed litigation. But if the DPP prosecutes you, it doesn’t matter whether you are innocent or guilty. You are already penalised to a ruinous degree. Even if the State prosecutes you in a frivolous and vexatious effort to oppress you, the costs will still fall on you, and those costs can be enormous.
This is wrong and it should be rectified.
Gail O’Rorke has physically walked free from the court today, but not emotionally and perhaps not financially. I don’t know what her circumstances are, and for all I know, she might have been awarded free legal aid. But even if she did receive legal aid, she’ll get absolutely no help dealing with the aftermath of the trauma visited on her by the State.
Many defendants don’t qualify for aid and when such people are acquitted, they can be burdened with gigantic, unsustainable costs as well as the mental injuries inflicted by being accused of a crime they did not commit.
It isn’t right that the State should be able to impose massive penalties on innocent people.
If a prosecution fails, the State should be obliged to care for the innocent party in every way conceivable.