Money talks at the Circuit Court
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.