Sligo Senator Marc Mac Sharry has published a Bill to tackle the increased prevalence of illegal money-lending and protect victims of unscrupulous loan sharks.
The Criminal Justice (Unlicensed Money-Lending) Bill 2013 will go before the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.
“The economic downturn has put many people in a vulnerable position to predatory and illegal loan-sharks” Mac Sharry said. “From small business owners to homeowners in mortgage arrears people struggling to make ends meet are becoming more and more susceptible to the quick cash offered by an unlicensed money-lender. What many do not realise is that extortionate interest rates will follow. People who get involved with these loan sharks end up falling deeper into unmanageable debt, and the failure to repay these loans often results in horrific consequences,” the Sligo Senator said.
“A report by in the UK last year said loan sharks were rampant in Northern Ireland, who would often take benefits books and post office cards as collateral against the loan. 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 there have been prosecutions to date. This is because 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 strengthen the court’s powers 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.
“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.”