Irish Examiner View: Confront perjury to save court credibility

Irish Examiner View: Confront perjury to save court credibility

We will, one way or another, have a new minister for justice before long. Whoever is nominated faces a litany of challenges BUT one of the most important may not be obvious. However, events over the last two weeks highlighted the urgent need to confront failings eating away at the credibility and ambition of our justice and policing systems.

On Thursday, it was reported that gardaí sent a file to the DPP recommending that criminal charges be pursued in the case of ‘Grace’, an intellectually disabled woman entrusted to foster family for two decades despite concerns about physical and sexual abuse.

There have been myriad inquiries - one is still incomplete - into this tragedy but that it has taken a decade for our system to even recommend action is appalling. That recommendation now enters another process of consideration which will delay proceedings even further. The scandal deepens.

In an unrelated case heard just over a week ago, a man was accused of "misleading the court from beginning to end, lying under oath and committing perjury". Judge Jacqueline Linnane, in a statement that must dishearten anyone who hopes our justice system does what it is supposed to do, said: “I see little point in referring this case to the DPP. They have enough to deal with and none of these referrals are pursued.” That judgement may be pragmatic but it is an appalling indictment.

Any suggestion this might be an isolated case is delusional. Speaking on the Perjury and Related Offences Bill in the Seanad last year Michael McDowell warned that perjury is widespread:

People can tell appalling lies in commercial and matrimonial cases and many other areas and do great damage to others, either personally or financially, or they may amass substantial gains for themselves by their behaviour.

Left unchecked perjury will undermine our courts to the point they have greatly diminished credibility and shrinking moral authority. It seems obvious to suggest that the next minister makes this corrosive issue a priority and ends the culture of tacit acceptance around it.

Another failing was underlined this week when the US Department of State criticised Ireland for “major failings” in its treatment of human trafficking victims. It is the second time in three years Ireland has been downgraded though we were in the top tier until 2018.

We will, one way or another, have a new minister for justice before long. Whoever is nominated faces a litany of challenges BUT one of the most important may not be obvious. However, events over the last two weeks highlighted the urgent need to confront failings eating away at the credibility and ambition of our justice and policing systems.

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