The Law Reform Commission, the Irish State’s independent legal watchdog, believe that certain criminals should now have their previous records permanently expunged, under new plans which are now only being currently considered by the present Government.
The Law Reform Commission first proposed this reform 8 years ago in 2007; where all offenders who serve a prison sentence of six months or less, or who receive a suspended sentence or fine, should have their records erased altogether, providing they can show a conviction-free period of some seven-year.
This Law Reform headline of yesterday reminded me of the case some years ago of local renowned, unemployed, Thurles pickpocket, Pajoe Damo O’Reilly-Browne.
Pajoe had been detained by a sharp eyed Thurles policeman and was appearing in Thurles Court, charged with certain pick pocketing offences committed, (or so arresting police officers claimed) on the streets of Thurles during a busy Cork V Tipperary GAA Hurling Munster Final.
Pajoe, through his appointed Free Legal Aid Solicitor, had argued that he was merely sticking his hands into strangers pockets just to keep them warm. His legal defence council had also argued that since, to quote the old proverb, “A fool and his money are easily parted”, his client, were he even to be found guilty, had merely just assisted in speeding up the future of things to come, and therefore no real crime had actually been committed. Pajoe’s defence solicitor had also been at pains to point out that Irish politicians pick the pockets of Irish citizens on a regular daily basis, yet same are never arrested and never dragged embarrassingly before a court of law, as was the case of his present client.
After much legal debate Justice Paddy McAlpine came to his own final conclusions. Addressing the accused, the Judge stated; “Mr O’Reilly, you sir are hereby found guilty of being involved in the theft of two mobile phones, nine wallets and forty two ecstasy tablets, all the property of ten law abiding individual. Since these stolen items have now all been returned safely to their rightful owners in tact, in your case I am suspending a custodial sentence. However this court places a fine on you in the total sum of €150; same to be paid with immediate effect into the Court Poor Box and before leaving this Courtroom”.
Pajoe reached reluctantly for his wallet whispering as he did so into the willing ear of his Solicitor. The acting Solicitor was observed nodding to his client before standing up before Judge McAlpine stating, “Your Honour, my client is a little short of funds at this time. He has only €125 in his pocket, but if you would allow him a few minutes to move around the towns crowded Liberty Square, my client would quickly return to this court and make full financial restitution.”
Thank God for the Irish State’s independent legal watchdogs, where would we be without them?