Fuel crime must lead to more jail sentences

Morning View
Morning View

Motorists are reminded of the vast rates of fuel duty every time they spend a hefty sum of cash to fill up their vehicle with petrol or diesel.

Every so often, they might want to consider something else too.

How much less would that fuel duty be if everyone was paying it?

As with other taxes, such as VAT or income tax, when some people don’t pay their fair share, everyone else has to cover for them.

In Northern Ireland, some people have not been paying their share for a long time.

Fuel laundering has been big business in the Province for many years and is costing the Treasury, and thus ultimately all law-abiding people, a large amount of money.

It is welcome that yesterday three laundering plants were discovered in Co Armagh.

This newspaper has been tracking fuel raids in recent years, and the good news is that such raids are more common than they were in the past.

This, according to security experts, will be damaging the finances of dissidents and other paramilitary thugs.

But an ongoing failure in the fight against illegal fuel has been the lack of prison sentences.

There is a benign explanation for this (that it is because the areas in which such crime is rife have been difficult to police during the Troubles and after) – and a more worrying explanation (that there has been a fear of upsetting republicans).

Whatever the reasons for this past failure, it needs to change.

There need to be convictions for fuel laundering, and hefty prison terms where appropriate.