The Seanad will this week discuss a Fianna Fáil Bill which aims to tackle the increased prevalence of illegal money-lending and protect victims from loan sharks.
Sligo Senator Marc Mac Sharry has published the Criminal Justice (Unlicensed Money-Lending) Bill 2013 to be discussed during Private Members’ Business on Wednesday.
“The economic downturn has forced many people to borrow money from illegal loan-sharks” Senator Mac Sharry said.
“People who are struggling to make ends meet are becoming more and more susceptible to the quick cash offered by an unlicensed money-lender. This actually makes matters worse for them as they have to pay back the loans with large interest rates, many fall into unmanageable debt.” the Sligo Senator said.
“A report in the UK last year said loan sharks were rampant in Northern Ireland. They often take benefits books and post office cards as collateral against loans. Consequences of not paying the loan-sharks included threats, physical assault, seizure of goods and forcing their victim to carry out an illegal task on their behalf. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the situation is the same on this side of the border but our legislation does not provide enough protection to victims.
“This bill would prohibit unlicensed money-lenders from subjecting their victims to harassment. It would allow the powers of the courts to be strengthened in this area. If a court does not find someone guilty of illegal money lending, the judge could still prohibit the accused from making any contact with the alleged victim.
“I am hoping that the Government members in Fine Gael and Labour support this Bill. There has never been a conviction in Ireland for illegal money lending, this Bill will directly address this anomaly in the justice system.
“We cannot afford to ignore the factors that are fuelling the loan shark business in Ireland. We need to get tough with those taking advantage of people in desperate financial difficulty. This bill is a step forward. It needs to be supplemented with other measures, such as the increased provision of social credit and supports to those most in need.
Senator Mac Sharry concluded: “The scourge of illegal money lending and the criminality associated with it is holding communities to ransom. The measures in this bill will provide additional protections to victims seeking justice.”