Lonergan: Jailing of mother highlights need for debate on appropriate punishment

The former governor of Mountjoy Prison has said that there needs to be a public debate about how to punish those who break the law.

The former governor of Mountjoy Prison has said that there needs to be a public debate about how to punish those who break the law.

John Lonergan said he has some reservations about the handing down of a custodial sentence to a woman convicted of welfare fraud yesterday.

Mother of six Mary Connors was given a three-year sentence for making fraudulent claims totalling €229,000, which she has since paid back.

Sentencing her yesterday Judge Martin Nolan said he wanted to send a message to other potential fraudsters, but Mr Lonergan said jail should be a last resort.

"I think this particular case, and some other individual cases, raise the issue around the need for public debate about what does Irish society in 2012 really need in terms of punishing people who do wrong," he said.

"I would always argue that prison should be the last resort."

Read more: Mother of six jailed for three years

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