Law Reform Commission on Mandatory Sentencing

The Law Reform Commission has published their Consultation Paper on Mandatory Sentencing.

The following recommends were made:

  • continuation of support for the proposed Judicial Counsel (first recommended in 2000) which would be empowered to publish sentencing guidelines, having regard to decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, mitigating and aggravating factors and offender characteristics as well as information in relevant databases such as ISIS (Irish Sentencing Information Systems);
  • continued support for the mandatory life sentence for murder, however the LRC further adds that on sentencing, a statement should be made as to the minimum period of imprisonment to be served by the prisoner, having regard to the specific circumstances of the case;
  • presumptive sentences of the kind used for drugs and firearms offences should not be expanded to other offences and should be subject to review, due to doubts about the effectiveness of such sentencing in reducing levels of criminality. The LRC notes that presumptive sentencing in drugs offences has had a discriminatory effect, treating all alike, and notes the adaptability of the drugs trade to the policy whereby expendables who operated at the lowest levels are sacrificed, further the bulging prison numbers as a result of this sentencing is another negative;

The IPRT greeted the report with qualified support, regretting that the LRC had once again affirmed its support for the mandatory life sentence for murder. ┬áTom O’Malley too has contested the use of the mandatory life sentence for murder , arguing instead that the introduction of a presumptive life sentence for murder, with in-built discretionary function would provide a less arbitrary, more nuanced tool in sentencing (Tom O’Malley, (1995) ‘Sentencing Murderers: The Case for Relocating Discretion’, in Irish Criminal Law Journal, 1, 31-66).

Read the report here.

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