Repeat Offenders Now Facing Stiffer Penalties

Repeat offenders now facing stiffer penalties

By Dearbhail McDonald
Wednesday January 30 2008

NON-nationals who fall foul of the Government's new immigration laws will be fined up to 500,000 and could be jailed for five years.

The severe penalties, outlined in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008, also includes provisions for 500-a-day fines for repeat offenders.

Access to the courts for asylum seekers and immigrants has also been curtailed in the new Bill, which will be the subject of a protest outside Leinster House tomorrow when the new Dail term resumes.

Unlike the current system, the proposed law does not include any independent appeals procedures for immigrants or a UK-style immigration appeals authority.

Solicitors and barristers have criticised a two-week limit for asylum seekers and immigrants to judicially review their cases in the High Court.

The legal profession has also dismissed as “intimidatory”, plans to make lawyers who represent non-nationals in failed immigration cases liable for legal costs.

The controversial section only applies to immigrants' lawyers and no other legal teams, including the State's.

Under the new act, immigration lawyers would be personally liable for all or part of the legal costs of an action if a failed action is deemed invalid or considered as frivolous and vexatious.

In no other area of law, civil or criminal, are lawyers personally liable for legal costs if their client's case fails.

And the law, if passed, could deter many small legal firms who represent immigrants, and cause barristers who act on a pro bono or free basis, to shun worthy cases because they pose a financial risk.


“This proposal to make lawyers liable seems designed to discourage vulnerable people from fully exercising their rights to the protection of the law,” said Ken Murphy, the Director General of the Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors.

“It in unnecessary and unjustified. Standing up for the rights of vulnerable people, particularly where this may be unpopular, is in the best traditions of the legal profession.

“It seems there is an attempt to curtail that here.”

Earlier this year, Minister of State for Integration Conor Lenihan attacked the legal profession for “throwing” immigration cases into the High Court.

Criticising the volume of asylum appeals, Mr Lenihan blamed a “voracious group of barristers” for the “grief and difficulty” surrounding the asylum process.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has called on the legal profession to monitor the Government's Immigration Bill.

And yesterday the body warned that the Bill will require significant amendment if it is to achieve the Government's stated aim of establishing a fair and transparent immigration system.

If made law, anyone found guilty on indictment of an offence under the Act could be fined up to 500,000 or be jailed for no more than five years.

Corporations and their staff will also be liable to be prosecuted under the proposed legislation.

– Dearbhail McDonald


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