Money talks at the Cir­cuit Court

De­cem­ber 1996

Gorey Guardian - - NEWS -


The le­gal pro­tec­tion given to money mat­ters is ev­i­dently tighter than that for af­fairs of crime or the fam­ily - as seen by events at Wex­ford Cir­cuit Court on Mon­day.

There was a printed sign on the door say­ing ‘In­come Tax Appeals – No En­try’ when peo­ple ar­rived at the sched­uled time for the begin­ning of crim­i­nal tri­als at 11 a.m. In­side, Judge Diar­muid Sheri­dan was hear­ing appeals made by self-em­ployed peo­ple against in­come tax judge­ments by the Rev­enue Com­mis­sion­ers.

These mat­ters are al­ways dealt with ‘in cam­era’, mean­ing only those di­rectly in­volved in the case are al­lowed to at­tend. How­ever, no such sign goes up when other types of del­i­cate ‘in cam­era’ cases are be­ing dealt with, such as fam­ily law, se­ri­ous sex­ual as­sault cases, or tri­als in­volv­ing ju­ve­nile de­fen­dants.

At one point on Mon­day, af­ter notic­ing the sign was turned round so that just a blank side faced out, this re­porter de­cided to check if the appeals were over, and opened the door into an ante-room that leads to the court­room.

No sooner had the in­no­cent ac­tion been taken than three peo­ple pounced: a se­nior of­fi­cer with the Rev­enue Com­mis­sion­ers, a mem­ber of the Garda Siochana, and the court regis­trar.

‘I’m sorry, you can’t come in here,’ com­mu­ni­cated the tax of­fi­cial, with a wor­ried look on his face.

The garda made an urgent ges­ture through the glass door, in­di­cat­ing that this was a no-go area, even for an ac­ci­den­tal sec­ond. What se­cu­rity!

And in a stern voice, the court regis­trar de­manded – ‘May I ask what you were do­ing in there?’

Mean­while, it was in­ter­est­ing to note that none of the peo­ple in­side were seen com­ing out of the main door when their appeals were over. They must have been al­lowed leave through the rear door of the court­house – again, a fa­cil­ity not af­forded to peo­ple in­volved in other types of ‘in cam­era’ hear­ings.

Just a week ear­lier, this same re­porter sat through a case in which a man was ac­cused of hav­ing sex with the un­der­age daugh­ter of his com­mon-law wife. The court had been cleared for the hear­ing, but no sign went up on the door, no­body stood guard at the door, and no­body chal­lenged three peo­ple who were not con­nected with the case when they wan­dered in at dif­fer­ent times and sat down while the case was still go­ing on.

But all rep­re­sen­ta­tives of jus­tice were on full alert last Mon­day when money was the is­sue. A clear case of dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment.

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