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

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

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

Mr O’Hegarty, who turned to crime after his crack cocaine addiction, has turned his life upside down and now runs a gym in Bray.

“I served my time in prison plus another four years of strict probation after my release, and to this day my previous convictions prevent me from doing certain things.

“I had no access to educational courses and jobs.

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

Under current law, a person can have a single conviction overturned after seven years, so long as they have been sentenced to a maximum of one year imprisonment or two years imprisonment.

If a person has two or more such beliefs, none can be expended.

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

Some have argued that Ireland is lagging behind other countries. In Germany, for example, there is no limit to the number of convictions that can be served after a certain period of time.

Mr O’Hegarty was 33 when he was jailed for a series of bank robberies in Ranelagh, Stillorgan and Ballsbridge. He has been called ‘Dublin’s most polite bank robber’ because he didn’t use the aggressive language normally associated with bank robbers. He stole more than 50,000 euros and was sentenced to four years in prison for his crimes. The term was later challenged by the DPP and increased to 12 years.

At the time of his conviction he had a degree 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 was struggling to find employment and was unable to access college courses.

“I understand the seriousness of the crimes I committed,” he said. “I take responsibility for what I did and I’ve served my time as punishment. I have the feeling that the system does not see this as sufficient.”

He said he would like a “case-by-case” approach for reformed criminals looking for work and education.

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

“You have to explain your beliefs when you apply for a job.

“If you don’t introduce them, you’re breaking the law, and not only that, if it shows up later you’re out the door.

“I’ve always been inclined to involve them, but then you don’t hear anything back, so you can’t win. Laws could be introduced that would help.” The reformed bank robber wants the law changed to make it easier for ex-cons to get jobs and access higher education

Fry Electronics Team

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