Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage. (03 Nov 2021)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): I am pleased to bring the Bill before the Seanad today. It is a relatively short Bill but it is significant.

The need for the Bill follows from the 2019 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Wayne Ellis v. Minister for Justice and Equality. In this ruling, the Supreme Court struck down section 27A(8) of the Firearms Act 1964, which provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years' imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence of possession of a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances. The court found that it is not constitutionally permissible for the Oireachtas to specify a mandatory minimum sentence that only applies to a limited class of persons, namely, those who have committed a second or subsequent offence for one or more listed offences. The court held that the application of a mandatory minimum sentence to a distinct category of persons in such cases amounted to the administration of justice and, under Article 34 of the Constitution, justice may only be administered by the Courts, not by the Oireachtas.

From a policy perspective, the Bill only has one purpose, which is to rectify the constitutional infirmities identified by the Supreme Court in the Ellis case. This is achieved by the repeal of all sentences on the Statute Book that provide for a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence. I am advised that it is not necessary to repeal the specific firearms provision that was struck down in the Ellis case. I am advised that the practice is not to repeal such provisions as they are already deemed void.

This Bill repeals all other penalties, including those linked to firearms and drug offences, which involve mandatory sentences for second or subsequent offences...

Section 6 amends section 27 of Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which provides for penalties for a range of offences relating to the misuse of drugs. Section 7 amends section 12A of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 which provides for penalties for shortening the barrel of a shotgun or rifle and similar offences. Section 8 amends section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007 which provides penalties for the commission of a scheduled offence where a person has already been convicted on indictment of a scheduled offence within a specified period.

Section 9 is a technical amendment to section 24 of the Parole Act 2019, which sets out provisions on the eligibility for parole. Section 24(12) of this Act makes reference to section 27(3F) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which provides for the mandatory minimum sentences for second and subsequent drug offences. This reference is in the context of specifying the minimum term of imprisonment to be served before a person may become eligible for parole. Section 9 removes this reference from the Parole Act 2019....

[For the full debate, please click this link to the Oireachtas website]

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
3 November 2021

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