October 3rd, 1974
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The prevalence of drink as a factor in cases before the district courts was underlined in this “In the Eyes of the Law” column by Nell McCafferty. – JOE JOYCE
IT IS popularly mooted that the family unit is fundamental to the Irish way of life. The unit is protected, allegedly, by anti-divorce legislation and bolstered, allegedly, by anti-contraceptive laws. Alcohol is a feature of family life, too.
“Stand up please,” said District Justice Kennedy to a boy in the Children’s Court. The boy struggled to his feet. “He’s tight. He’s not fit to stand,” said the Justice as the boy swayed in front of her. He had been arrested two hours earlier for being drunk in the street.
The guard had apprehended him and his companion as they poured wine from a bottle into a cup. “After repeated questioning they insisted that their ages were 14 and 13,” said the guard.
“I’m quite satisfied these ages are incorrect,” said the Justice.
They pleaded guilty.
“Due to their age, I can do nothing with them except fine them,” said the Justice. “I’ll fine you £1 each, though it’s most unlikely the fine will be collected, since you have no fixed abode.”
The two boys of no fixed abode, about whom nothing could be done, swayed out into the street.
Two girls pleaded guilty to stealing two blouses. “I don’t even remember doing it,” said one girl.
“You mean to tell me you were drunk?” asked the Justice. “Yes,” said the girl.
“I’ll apply the Probation Act. There’s nothing I can do. It’s outrageous to see children of that age drunk,” said the Justice.
“Thanks,” said the girls.
Down in Dublin District Court No 4 a man stood in the dock before District Justice Ó hUadhaigh.
“He assaulted his wife,” said the guard. “They had a bit of an argument at the door, at two in the morning, and she came down to the station to have him charged. She was removed to hospital and had two stitches. He has no previous convictions. He’s unemployed.”
The wife said she had gone to the pub with a neighbour. Her husband had joined them. Then they went to a party at a friend’s home.
“Were you drunk or sober at that stage?” asked the Justice.
“I’d had a few drinks,” said the woman. “When we went home, he went on and on, calling me names and things. He’s jealous but I never gave him cause, but that’s the sort of abuse I got.”
They had six children. He was 39. She was 38.
The Justice asked her to describe the assault.
“He kept banging my head against the wall of the house,” she said. “I called out to the children. He just kept on hitting me.”
“I had a few drinks on me,” said the husband. “I don’t think I struck her, I might have shoved her around.”
“I’ve said this so often, but I’d better repeat it again,” said the Justice. [ . . . ]“There’s only one way to stop this carry-on. Any man who lays a hand on a woman should go to jail. It’s the only deterrent there is and the best. Four months’ imprisonment.”