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Another soft sentence for Child Porn from the Irish Courts

If you are going to claim that a sentence is soft in a headline, it is probably a good idea to provide proof, straight up. So let’s not talk about child sex abuse for a moment. Let us instead talk about a tax evader, specifically a tax evader by the name of John Fitzsimons, from Palmerstown in Dublin.

In July, Mr. Fitzsimons appeared in the courts before Judge Martin Nolan. The facts of his case were not in dispute. For many years, he had stolen VAT monies from the state, and failed to lodge income taxes. He owed the revenue commissioners a minimum amount of €136,000, and probably much more once interest and penalties had been applied.

Mr. Fitzsimons admitted his crime. His solicitors told the court that what had happened was that he had neglected to file a tax return one year, and then another, and soon the hole he was in got so deep that he stuck his head in the sand and hoped never to be caught. It did not work.

Mr. Fitzsimons was sentenced to two years in prison. Remember that: Two years in prison.

Now, let’s talk about a child sex offender. Specifically, a child sex offender by the name of Matthew Johnson. The Times provides the details:

A laptop belonging to Matthew Johnstone, 31, was seized by gardaí and found to contain 22 images and 13 videos of children between the ages of one and 12 being sexually and physically abused.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that one of these videos depicted an 18-month-old child being subjected to “elements of torture”.

Johnstone, of Brabazon House, Cork Street, Dublin City centre, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography at his home on November 19, 2018. He has no previous convictions.

At a previous sentencing hearing, Judge Pauline Codd said the images were “stomach churning” even in describing them, “let alone viewing them”.

Mr. Johnson was sentenced to one year in prison. Just one.

Put the two cases side by side, and you get a fair approximation of how the state views the two crimes. Mr. Johnson, the man who watched – presumably for the purpose of sexual gratification – a toddler being tortured and sexually abused, got one year. Mr. Fitzsimons, who did not pay his taxes, got two years. There is no other reasonable conclusion to draw other than that the state believes tax evasion is twice as criminal as providing a market for child abuse pornography.

It is important to note at this point that some variation in sentencing between crimes and judges is to be expected. The facts of an individual case might mean, for example, that a drunk driver who kills somebody gets a lesser sentence than somebody guilty of corporate fraud. There can be mitigating, or aggravating circumstances to a particular case. Judges have a range of penalties available to them. Perhaps some readers might argue that taking one case and comparing it against another is more anecdote than data.

But the problem is that this is not a lone incident. Penalties for child sex abuse, and other sexual crimes, have been astonishingly lenient in Ireland for some time. And chief amongst the mercy-dispensers is the aforementioned Martin Nolan. If you do not believe me, read the litany of examples previously provided here. You will find that Judge Nolan dispensed harsher justice to the tax evader than he did to an array of frankly horrible sexual criminals.

This is not only the fault of Judges. It is primarily the fault of politicians. In the morning, if they so wished, they could revise the sentencing guidelines for crimes against children.

If Prison is, in fact, a deterrent – which the state must believe it is, since it has prisons – then that deterrent should be used to the maximum to prevent and punish sexual crimes. It is an absurd and indefensible situation to discover that a relatively minor case of tax evasion is more severely punished than possession of the kind of horror videos that Mr. Johnson had.

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