IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Sentencing back in the Spotllight.

8th February 2010

Sentencing once again has been brought to the spotlight and with that the idea of mandatory sentencing. The introduction of mantatory sentencing brings with it a number of problems including the potential for injustice, it's ineffectiveness as a deterrent, the undermining of the justice system and in the current economic climate, the rate and cost of imprisonment. For the IPRT position paper on mandatory sentencing click here.

The task of sentencing another human being is one of the most harrowing, no two crimes are the same therefore no two criminals are the same. The information judges take into account regarding sentencing include the nature of the crime, the personality and character of the accused, their previous convictions and their likelihood of re-offending. A report issued by the DPP in 2008 stated that 92% of those charged with indictable offences pleaded guilty therefore much time is spent by the criminal justice system on sentencing. This gives judges extensive experience in terms of the procedure. The problem may therefore not lie in the sentencing process but rather in what happens afterwards in terms of remission and temporary release. The overcrowding in Irish prisons will therefore only exacerbate the situation.

Mandatory sentencing of a minimum ten years for the possession of drugs above a certain value has not impacted on the war on drugs therefore its success is not evident. Sentencing however has come a long way with the introduction of victim impact statements in which both the victims and their families can articulate how the crime has affected them.

For related articles click on the links below

The Sunday Business Post Feb 7th click here

The Irish Times Feb 6th click here

The Evening Herald Feb 5th click here

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