Eoghan’s interview on Activist Lawyer is available to listen to now on Spotify and across all major streaming platforms or via www.ActivistLawyer.com. We caught up with Eoghan to talk about what activism means to him.
How important is activism?
Activism is a means to bring about a positive change to those who may be disadvantaged or negatively impacted by the systems within society. It is hugely important to protect the rights of those who are vulnerable within our society and who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves.
Human rights firms, such as KOD Lyons Solicitors in Dublin, fight for the rights of their clients on a daily basis, be it their liberty, equality or welfare. We are activists for our clients’ best interests.
Can we use the law effectively as a tool for activism?
The legal system is the cornerstone of our society from which we are afforded our rights and it is important that the law, and how it operates, reflects our core values and culture.
The law and the criminal justice system can be used as a mechanism to try and get people the help that they need which unfortunately is often not afforded to them until they become part of the criminal justice system. We have clients with addiction difficulties, mental health challenges and children in need of adequate and appropriate supports and care from the State.
Unfortunately, it is not until they are part of the criminal justice system that we can put pressure on State bodies to provide the requisite level of services to assist them in dealing with the challenges that led them to coming into the criminal justice system in the first place.
For example, for children who have been failed in being provided with adequate mental health, addiction, educational and therapeutic care supports, the law can be used as a mechanism to hold those accountable to task.
Tell us about a career milestone / case that will stay with you forever
I had a juvenile client who was charged with possession of a large quantity of drugs in circumstances where he had amassed a small drugs debt. The client and his family were being threatened if he did not move a package from point A to point B. The client was someone who had never come to the negative attention of An Garda Síochána.
This was a very serious charge that, if the child were an adult, would normally be dealt with on indictment in the Circuit Court with a mandatory minimum 10 years sentence as a starting point.
However, through careful case management and a successful application under Section 75 of the Children’s’ Act 2001, the charges were kept in the Children’s’ District Court. The section 75 application was our opportunity to ask the Judge of the Children’s Court to accept jurisdiction of this serious matter based on the child’s age, level of maturity and any other relevant circumstances in the case even though the DPP wished for the case to be dealt with in a far more serious manner before the Circuit Court. Through the client’s engagement with probation, he was left without a conviction on his record. This prevented doors being closed on him in respect of travel and employment opportunities in the future.
A fantastic result for a child who got involved in the wrong circumstances, who can continue through his life without having this mistake in judgment follow him around.
This serves as a reminder of how the law can have an impact on our lives and the importance of having somebody advocate on your behalf particularly where it involves someone who may have made one mistake in their life, learned from that mistake and should not be punished for the rest of their life as a result.
Does your current practice specialise in campaigning / representing clients in a specific area, and if so, how did you get involved in this area?
KOD Lyons Solicitors is a Human Rights and Public Interest Law Firm. We represent some of the most vulnerable groups in society.
I specialise in representing children accused of criminal offences. They can be some of the most vulnerable clients of our office. We pride ourselves on representing them as it can be a very intimidating and daunting place for a child to find themselves accused of an offence with the might of the State bearing down on them. Everybody, particularly children, needs a defender in their corner.
What is the most important change to the law that you feel needs to be addressed now?
I believe that there is a huge need to change the law and the funding being put in place for children. The Children’s Act 2001 offers young people charged with offences certain protections and safeguards in how their cases are dealt with. These are lost once a child attains their age of majority. A simple change to the legislation allowing these protections and safeguards to continue to be afforded to those who have committed offences as a child, regardless of whether they have subsequently become an adult or not would be of benefit in dealing with their cases.
I also believe that if the proper funding was put in place to help children, be it with their assessments of needs and therapeutic interventions, or through funding in projects aimed at giving children a chance to stay away from negative activity and the criminal lifestyle, then they would not be an expense to the State as an adult and would not come to the negative attention of the criminal justice system.
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