VICTIMS of crime committed by people on temporary or early release from prison should consider suing the state for compensation, a judge has claimed.
Cork-based district court judge Michael Pattwell was commenting following revelations that a man on temporary release committed a series of serious crimes.
His remarks come as the prison system is at crisis point, with almost one-in-seven prisoners currently free on temporary release.
Garda sources said last night the early release system was a “huge problem”.
“The problem is not only with temporary release, but just release. If anyone gets six months now, they are serving a day. They are just walking out the door.”
Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan warned that temporary release was being used as a valve to alleviate the pressure on the prison system.
“I would share the judge’s concerns regarding temporary release. It is being used to deal with overcrowding issues and the prison crisis.”
Judge Pattwell made his comments in Cobh court when he heard Jason Butler, from Midleton who has a record of 23 burglary convictions since 2003, was let out two weeks into a five-month sentence.
Following this, Butler was involved in a series of break-ins, criminal damage and theft.
Judge Pattwell said business owners, victims of assault and others who suffer criminal activity from prisoners who are given early release, should consider taking a case against the state.
He directed that Butler serve 23 months, but added: “What can I say, he may get out again tomorrow. Where is the prison service in this? It is a disgrace.”
The Irish Prison Service admitted it was using temporary release as part of its programme of sentence management, and blamed overcrowding on a dramatic increase in the number of sentenced prisoners, those committed on remand, and a trend of longer sentences.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Manuela Riedo Foundation welcomed the judge’s comments, saying it would be a “very welcome course of action” and that the state had to take responsibility.
The family of the murdered Swiss teenager are currently taking legal advice with a view to suing the state as her killer was out on bail at the time.
More than 28,000 crimes were committed by people out on bail last year – including about a quarter of all serious crimes.
The 2008 figure includes eight murders. In 2007, 13 murders were attributed to suspects out on bail for other offences.
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