[Sinn Fein]

2nd March 1999

Rich and Poor

How equal are the rich and the poor in the eyes of the justice system ?

Recently a young drug addict was jailed for six years for stealing a handbag. Last week a young woman who paid a bus fare of 1.00 instead of 2.25 was fined 105 and sentenced to 14 days in prison. Not so long ago AIB paid 14 million instead of the 100million it owed in DIRT tax due to a carefully conceived fraud involving non-resident accounts and nothing more was done by the government, the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Justice.

Examples such as these make it all too clear that there is a two-tier system of justice in operation in this country. The old phrase of there being one law for the rich and another for the poor is very relevant in such circumstances.

Sinn Fein Dublin North East representative Larry O'Toole commented:

``If all the monetary wrongdoings of the wealthy people and institutions of this state were to be weighed against the justice meted out to the young woman who paid the wrong bus fare, government coffers would be overflowing with money and there would be a lot of fraudsters spending many lifetimes in jail.

``If AIB were to be prosecuted on equal terms with the young woman aforementioned, they would have to pay a fine of 7.224billion and whoever was chiefly responsible for the fraud would be sentenced to 9662921 days, or 26473 years, in prison. In saying all this I am not justifying bag snatching or the evasion of bus fares, but what I am suggesting is that white-collar crime be treated on an equal basis as all other types of crime. With all the revelations coming out in the various tribunals and the increasing level of fraud being uncovered recently, it is high time the courts stopped white-collar crime - from paying.''

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