Prison officer advice allows judge shut door on early releases

A judge used some advice from a prison officer this week (September 19 ) to ensure a sentence given to a shoplifter could not be cut short by the governor.

Judge Seamus Hughes was acting in the case of James Fallon (25 ), from Annagh, Castlesampson, Co Roscommon who was pleading guilty to the theft of six bottles of spirits from a number of shops around Athlone in August, as well as the theft of a camera and wallet from a car in Willow Park.

However, the judge noticed Fallon was presented to the court from the dock, and was told by an escort officer that he had sentenced Fallon to a month in jail in Mullingar last week, and that his release date was October 12.

Curious, Judge Hughes asked how this could be, as one of the biggest problems with sentencing in Ireland in his opinion, was the number of non-violent offenders who are released within days of receiving a multi-month sentence.

“There’s no remission for [anyone getting a sentence] less than a month,” said the prison officer.

“That’s a very interesting thing, and yet we’re told not to give short sentences,” noted the judge.

“If I sentence someone to nine months in prison, they’re out in two days. Ah, well,” he sighed.

Inspector Aidan Minnock told the court that Fallon had 75 previous convictions.

“So, since you became of voting age, you’ve committed one crime a month,” noted Judge Hughes.

“Caught for,” corrected the inspector, to a ripple of laughter, before fairly pointing out that Fallon “wouldn’t be one of Athlone’s more prolific burglars”.

“You’ll have to stop going into off-licences and taking it. If the price of drink goes up in the Budget it won’t affect you at all, will it?” he said, before sentencing Fallon to another month in jail, to run consecutively from the end of his present sentence.

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