The Dept of Justice and Law Reform has published an overview of responses received to the second discussion document of the White Paper on Crime: Criminal Sanctions.
Among the general comments made in submissions were:
- Many submissions stated that there was a need for greater clarity and consistency in sentencing; the majority of submissions which referred to the question of mandatory sentencing were not in favour of it.
- The majority of submissions supported the principle of penal moderation, greater use of non-custodial sanctions, reinforced by early intervention and prevention methods; they considered that rehabilitation should be the main purpose of criminal sanctions.
- It was proposed that there should be greater use of Community Service Orders, that Orders should be served in offenders' own communities, and that their benefits should be made known to the public.
- Some submissions favoured a range of other alternative sanctions, such as restorative justice, adult cautioning, electronic tagging and the use of innovative court disposals such as drug court and community courts.
- Another range of submissions criticised current sentencing policy as being too lenient and proposed longer sentences and greater use of imprisonment; these views tended to emphasise incapacitation and punishment as the main purpose of criminal sanctions.
- A further theme in some submissions related to the negative impacts of imprisonment on offenders, their families, communities and wider society. Most such submissions were of the view that the current prison system does not rehabilitate and that there is a need for coherent pre- and post-release programmes.
- There was criticism of plans to build a new prison at Thornton Hall and it was argued that the introduction of more prison spaces may act as an impetus to fill these spaces.
- Some submissions were concerned with women in prison as well as women who come in contact with the criminal justice system and considered that there was a need for a gender-based and individual approach to women who come in contact with the law.
- A small number of submissions suggested prisoner segregation according to security levels, with maximum security for serious offenders such as gangland criminals and a less strict regime for the less serious and non-violent offenders.
- Many submissions were concerned with the role of the victim in the criminal justice system and argued that the victims should have a greater role and be given greater priority during the course of investigation, prosecution and sentencing.
- It was also submitted that criminal sanction policy should reflect the rights contained in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, including the presumption of innocence, the right to personal liberty and proportionate sentencing.
- It was also suggested that the increase in prison numbers since the 1990s reflected political choices and a move to penal populism rather than an increase in crime, and that that the number of people in prison in Ireland is high when compared with the crime rate.
The overview can be access here.
Submissions were received from 27 private individuals and the following organisations:
- Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development
- Athlone Community Taskforce
- Business in the Community
- Castlepollard Community Council
- Cooley & District Community Alert
- Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of Limerick
- Crime Victims Helpline
- Dublin Central Joint Policing Committee
- Dublin City Business Association
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
- Facing Forward
- Irish Heart Foundation
- Irish Penal Reform Trust
- Irish Tobacco Manufacturers' Advisory Committee
- Mountjoy Visiting Committee
- Muinitr na Tíre
- Safer Ballymun
- Safer Blanchardstown
- Table Observers
- Women in Prison Reform Alliance
- Women's Aid