A DISTRAUGHT father has pleaded with the state authorities to free his son from Mountjoy prison after he was yesterday imprisoned for two weeks over his failure to pay a fine of €240.
A caller to RTÉ’s Liveline programme who identified himself only as Patrick, said he feared for the safety of his 30-year-old son in the notoriously overcrowded prison.
He contacted the phone-in show hosted by Joe Duffy to air his concerns about the need to jail people who were unable to pay fines for economic reasons.
“He’s going to prison basically because he lost his work,” explained the man.
He claimed his son lost his job as a plumber and plasterer 13 months ago as a result of the sharp downturn in the construction industry and had been living on handouts from his parents over the past year.
The man said his son had been prosecuted for not displaying an up-to-date motor tax disc on his goods vehicle, which he had been unable to afford due to the lack of work in his trade.
He criticised the courts and judiciary for being unsympathetic to his son’s plight, even though he had explained to a District Court judge that he had been refused any social welfare payments and thereby had no income. He claimed his son had made every effort to put his affairs in order and had ensured that he had paid any outstanding tax owed to the Revenue before winding up his business.
“Government departments and the judiciary are showing no consideration or compassion to any person who is destitute,” he said.
The man revealed that he had offered to pay the fine, but his son had insisted on serving time in prison in default of making the payment in order to “preserve his dignity” and make a stand on the issue. However, he remained concerned for his son’s safety given that one prisoner, Gary Douche, had been beaten to death by a cellmate in Mountjoy.
The father also praised gardaí for facilitating his son by allowing him to spend the weekend with his nine-year-old son before meeting by appointment yesterday at his local Garda station for transportation to Mountjoy.
Last night, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said it had a policy of not commenting on the circumstances of individual prisoners. However, he confirmed the IPS had not received any formal representation from any relative regarding the safety of a prisoner.
Prison sources said it was highly unlikely someone jailed for the non-payment of a court fine would spend much of their actual term of imprisonment in custody.
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