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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Its official: Corruption is legal in Ireland

A student, Eoin Mc Keogh and 23 years old, had never committed a crime, and, like us all, hoped it would stay that way, but he had one committed against him by none other than the legal system itself. 

                                                                       Eoin Mc Keogh

The case against him was so garden variety that it hardly merited a mention in the districts courts, and at best if he was the guilty party it would only have resulted in a small fine. But being innocent put a different hue on the matter and a criminal conviction, no matter how small on your resume, is not a good thing facing into your future prospects for a job. The sense of outrage and concern by this young man and his parents forced them to mount a defence and one very easy to prove: simple mistaken identity. An honest solicitor would have charged €500 at best. This family though would have to keep their greater outrage for later.

The case was straight forward even by any sleep walking Garda who needed an appointment with Specsavers and a better attitude. One person clumsily and wrongly picked Eoin out of video footage that came from inside of a taxi showing another person jumping out of the vehicle without paying the fare. The guy was not Eoin, who was several thousand miles away eating sushi in Japan. But the fare for the ride with his solicitor that his family employed to defend him was going to be much bigger. 

That solicitor, Paul Lambert, saw this family as merely sprats in a big ocean and this legal shark was intent on devouring them; it is a moot point and a technical footnote that he was supposed to be representing them and therefore legally, if not morally, was on their side.
The parents, Eamon and Fidelma Mc Keogh, net worth in monetary terms is €250,000 of equity tied up in the family home. But Lambert knew this would not be enough to satisfy the life he had become accustomed to. Eoin McKeogh parents would need another eye watering €1,650, 000 to pay him (not a miss-print). That is one million, six hundred and fifty thousand euro. The fix was in. 

To get out of the fix they would need more barristers and solicitors and is where they are today; and that house that they slaved all their lives for and the boundless love for their son that is priceless, will not be enough to get them out of this one. It is official: corruption is legal in Ireland. 

The McKeoghs have appealed to the Law Courts to set them free from Lambert and the latter has appealed to them as well to keep them in financial penury and himself enriched. The Law Courts, a private company and not a State body, is staffed by more lawyers of course, and where is that going to get the McKeoghs for they have only every showed to be on one side almost all of the time and has nothing to with law, idealism or mere morals.

Lambert had billed the McKeogh's at different times for fictional hours that was anything from €270 an hour to €375 in a case where this young man could have defended himself for free; you see Lambert has several minions to pay otherwise called absentee employees. But such was this student's hope tied up in his naivety for justice he had not realised until it was too late that it does not exist in Ireland if indeed it exists at all anywhere else. Now Lambert has hired more lawyers to defend himself and to make sure he gets his money from the McKeoghs.

One of Lambert’s assertions in trying to mitigate his actions is that he had to do battle with the giants of Facebook, Utube and Google over the taxi video; a claim so laughable that it defines the nature of solicitor’s double speak and the arbitrary method of billing by simply pulling a lottery number out of a hat, hoping it will stick, and that they will get away with it. So far Lambert is getting away with it.

It is not just solicitors and the barristers higher up the food chain that are the problem, but getting public documents, that has to be cleared with a judge in the first place, is just as problematic and expensive. One example: if you apply for a court transcript for your particular case or trial or for an exercise in study alone, despite that they are part of the public domain, in Ireland's Circuit Court they will charge you €80 per page. Bearing in mind that these documents can easily run into the hundreds of pages if not thousands, then the first 100 of them will cost you €8000 (eight thousand euro) with no applicable discount for sheer volume amounts. Not for the lawyers mind but only you, Joe Public. 

The justice system is within a system that is pandemic in its corruption across the globe created from what was once the high idealism of law that was formulated from the first crude interpretation of the Magna Carta. What is now criminal is the law itself along with the legal criminals that oil its wheels as it regresses slowly back to where the individual rights have become greatly diminished. 

The courts has become a place to be feared not just by the guilty but the innocent too. It is beyond time to stop this and needed to have begun yesterday. The irony is that we have to engage with lawyers to make change and that will prove to be the hardest battles of all albeit one that has to be fought. This battle must at least start today.

Barry Clifford