John, word in your Trinity Lug, Join Fianna Fail, then all Problems Solved, maybe a Seat in the Seanad, the Sky the Limit?

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Independent.ie

Reformed bank robber wants law changed to make it easier for ex-cons get jobs and access to higher education

29th April 2022

A Trinity graduate who robbed 16 banks more than a decade ago has called for legislative changes to make it easier for reformed criminals to access education and employment once they leave prison.

John O’Hegarty (49), who served six years in prison for a series of bank robberies in 2004, has spoken of his struggle to reintegrate into society since his release in 2010.

Mr O’Hegarty, who turned to crime after becoming addicted to crack cocaine, has turned his life around and now runs a gym in Bray.

“I served my time in prison plus another four years of strict probation once I was released, and to this day, my previous convictions still prevent me doing certain things.

“I have been unable to access education courses and jobs.

“There is no point in time when my convictions will be expunged,” he said.

Under current legislation, a person can expunge a single conviction after seven years as long as they received a maximum one-year prison sentence or a two-year non-custodial sentence.

If a person has two or more such convictions, none can become spent.

A 2018 bill, currently before the Oireachtas, would increase the custodial sentence limit to 24 months and the non-­custodial to 48.

Some have argued that Ireland lags behind other countries. In Germany for example, there is no limit on the number of convictions that may become spent after a period of time.

Mr O’Hegarty was 33 when he was jailed for a series of bank robberies in Ranelagh, Stillorgan and Ballsbridge. Dubbed “Dublin’s politest bank robber” because he did not use the aggressive language usually associated with bank robbers, he stole more than €50,000 and was sentenced to four years for his crimes. The term was later appealed by the DPP and increased to 12 years.

At the time of his sentence, he had a diploma in journalism, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in psychoanalytic studies from Trinity College Dublin.

On his release, Mr O’Hegarty said he struggled to gain employment and could not access higher education courses.

“I understand the seriousness of the crimes I committed,” he said. “I take responsibility for what I did and I served my time as punishment. I do feel that the system does not see that as being enough.”

He said he would like to see a “case-by-case” approach to reformed criminals seeking employment and education.

“If you get set up and hit the ground running after release, you stand a much better chance,” he said.

“You have to declare your convictions when you are applying for a job.

“If you don’t put them in, you are breaking the law and not only that, if it comes up later, you are out the door.

“I have always been inclined to include them, but then you don’t hear back so you can’t win. Legislation could be introduced that would help.”

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