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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 520 - Prison sentencing [22163/11]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 520 - Prison sentencing [22163/11]. (21 Jul 2011)

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520. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is carrying out a review of sentencing policy; his views on whether adequate sentences are being handed down for those found guilty of serious criminally violent activity. [22163/11]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): The traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down the maximum penalty and for a court having considered all the circumstances of the case to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum.  

There are a small number of situations, however, where statute has created important exceptions to this approach. There is a strictly mandatory sentencing requirement for murder and other provisions relating to drug trafficking and firearms offences where a presumptive mandatory minimum sentence applies. Where the court is satisfied that there are exceptional and specific circumstances which would make a particular minimum sentence unjust, a different sentence can be applied. The type of circumstances which a court may consider would include whether and when the accused pleaded guilty and whether they assisted the investigation of the offence.
The Deputy will appreciate that judges are independent in the matter of sentencing as they are in other matters concerning the exercise of judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. It is important to make the point, when discussing sentencing, that the Director of Public Prosecutions may apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review a sentence he regards as unduly lenient.
The Deputy may be aware that my Department is currently engaged in a public consultation process to develop a White Paper on Crime with a view to developing a policy framework for future strategies to combat and prevent crime. Part of the consultation process focussed on criminal sanctions, during the course of which sentencing guidelines were discussed. There was no consensus on how such guidelines might operate without undermining judicial independence and flexibility. The prevailing view, with which I agree, is that judicial independence is crucially important and should be safeguarded. However, I should add that the Law Reform Commission has been asked to consider, and if appropriate, recommend reforms in the law in relation to mandatory sentencing. The Commission will consider the use of mandatory sentences for offences in general terms along with approaches based on “ranges of sentences”. I welcome the fact that the Commission intends to publish a consultation paper on this subject later this year.
Written Answers - Prison Sentencing
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 737 No. 12
Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
21 July 2011

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