New breed of Limerick criminals believe settled community are prey, says solicitor


Criminals involved in drugs ïn Limerick city are a "new breed" of predators who live outside the ordinary rules of society and see other members of the community simply as "prey", according to the State's prosecuting solicitor for the city.

Michael Murray, who is president of the State Solicitors' Association, and has practised in Limerick for over 30 years, says drugs have "taken over" when it comes to criminal activity in the city.

This has led to a significant increase in the number of criminal cases which the courts have to deal with every year, he told The Irish Times in an interview.

Those involved in crime did not subscribe to the normal rules of the citizenry and don't give "two sugars" who they hurt outside of their own group, he warns.

"The people who are involved in the drug scene come from a breed of people who always lived on the edge.

"They are a segment of society that regard themselves as "nonconformist, outside", Mr Murray said.

"They don't like authority, they're rebellious . . . we have this new breed of rebellious people who are predators, and they regard the settled community as prey.

"They are very loyal to their own. It is a very insidious way of thinking and it has always been there.

"But the stakes are so high now, that's what has changed," Mr Murray added.

"The problem now is things have got out of hand, they start off at one level and it's being ratcheted up all the time. If somebody does something bad, they have to do something twice as bad."

Mr Murray said that the changing nature of his job was not a Limerick-only phenomenon.

There were currently 32 State solicitors prosecuting cases in the District and Circuit Courts throughout the State, he pointed out.

Those in the larger population centres in particular had seen their workload, but not their remuneration, increase in recent years, he said.

However, he would be "extremely disappointed" if a recent row with the Government over the pay and conditions of State Solicitors' Association members was not resolved.

Earlier this year, it was claimed that poor pay levels and increasing workloads could lead to a withdrawal of services by State solicitors and had contributed to the decision of several of them to resign.

The issue of salary levels is now to be referred to the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, while broad agreement has been reached on a range of other issues.

There remain some difficulties to be "thrashed out", but the threat of a withdrawal of services has abated, said Mr Murray.

He added that, despite some claims to the contrary, the issue of how to compete with well-resourced defence teams is not a cause of concern for his members, who had the "pick of the crop" when it came to appointing prosecuting counsel.

Mr Murray runs the firm Michael D Murray and Company on O'Connell Street in Limerick.

He is a brother of the Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray.

The real "day-to-day grind" of a State solicitor's job, he says, is their work on behalf of the Garda authorities.

This can involve constant phone calls from gardaí looking for advice, correspondence or files.

In the past, Mr Murray has been vocal in claiming that future recruits to the profession will not be interested in becoming State solicitors due to the poor pay and conditions associated with the work.

He wrote to the Attorney General, Rory Brady, saying he was no longer prepared to "subsidise the State" in his role.

Nevertheless, there remains a certain pride and status in being a State solicitor which Mr Murray readily evokes.

It is, he believes, the purest form of law.

"People often say to me 'why the hell are you doing the job?' I mean I could probably make a lot of money doing something else.

"Part of the problem is it is such an interesting job in its own right.

"I suppose you become seduced by the nature and variety of it," Mr Murray said.

"Also from a professional point of view your job is to prosecute criminals, and the bar is very high in terms of the burden of proof, and there's a real cut and thrust to this."

State solicitors estimate that they prosecute 50 per cent of criminal cases tried on indictment every year.

"And we do so with little or no controversy.

"It is, I believe, a testament to our industry and diligence," Mr Murray said.