17 Aug 2022

Hundreds failing to turn up for Longford courts

New figures show how scores of bench warrants have been issued since January 2018

Hundreds of people are refusing to turn up in court to answer even the most basic of criminal charges, the Leader can reveal.

New figures obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed how over 1,150 bench warrants have been issued for the arrests of individuals for failing to attend court in Longford between January 2018 and March of this year.

That corresponds to an average of over 350 bench warrants being handed down each year.

A total of 536 warrants were recorded between January and December 2018 with 391 being furnished over the following 12 month period.

A further 200 were documented last year with a further 25 warrants already accounted for during the first three months of this year.

Chairperson of Longford's Joint Policing Committee Cllr Seamus Butler expressed his dissatisfaction at the figures, adding the statistics were charachteristic of a system which was in need of review.

“There is a small minority of people that simply have no regard whatsoever for law and order,” he said, when responding to the figures.

“It's not surprising, it's disappointing.”

Cllr Butler said although warrants do serve their purpose in bringing defendants before a judge, a different tactic was required when dealing with those who pick up multiple warrants.

“Anyone who repeatedly attracts warrants should get an exemplary sentence because it's (successive warrants) not a mitigating factor by any means,” he added.

Under a series of documents obtained by the Leader, it has also emerged how the taxpayer is coughing up thousands of euros in transferring prisoners to and from Longford courts.

A total of €32,600 has been spent by the Irish Prison Service conveying defendants from Irish prisons to court sittings in Longford since January 2018.

The largest outlay came last year when Prison Service bosses spent €11,422 on travel expenses.

Over €18,000 was spent between 2018 and 2019 with a futher €3,000 having been certified, despite stringent Covid restrictions, for the first six months of this year.

That figure is, however, expected to be greater than the overall €32,600 spend currently accounted for as the figures do not refer to the costs incurred by gardaí.

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