DPP says no 'quick fixes' to gangland crime

 

THERE ARE no legal “quick fixes” to the problem of gangland crime in Ireland, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

James Hamilton said dealing with gangland crime was largely a problem of policing and the obtaining of evidence. The legal system could cope with it so long as the evidence was there and witnesses were willing to come forward.

“Every now and then, when you get some dreadful event such as the murder of Shane Geoghegan, you get politicians coming out with instant panaceas and, by and large, these responses are not the right ones,” he told a meeting of Trinity College Law Review last night.

Mr Hamilton said there was a huge need for jury reform. “We’ve gone far too far in excluding or excusing people with professional skills or knowledge.

“Effectively you end up with a jury which very often consists solely of people who are very young or not employed and that’s not a balanced thing. There should of course be some of those people on a jury but they shouldn’t all be from those categories.”

He added: “The whole idea of challenges to a jury should go because they are used to skew the jury away from whatever representative nature it has towards what is perceived to be favourable to the defence.”

In special cases, it ought to be possible to make an application to court for a jury to remain totally anonymous, the DPP said. This could be organised in such a way that the defence would know who was on the panel but would not know the actual identity of the 12 jurors.

He suggested legislation to provide anonymity for jurors, in the way that anonymity is provided for officers of the Criminal Assets Bureau. Mr Hamilton said he still believed in the necessity for the Special Criminal Court.

He said the witness protection programme was of very limited use. It could only be used where a member of a criminal gang was prepared to give evidence against other members.