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MEDIA ADVISORY: IPRT calls on Government to act on Law Reform Commission recommendations around mandatory sentencing repeal and Parole Board reform

11th June 2013

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) strongly welcomes the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations to Government that most presumptive and mandatory minimum sentencing regimes should be repealed, and that such sentencing regimes should not be extended to other offences. IPRT further welcomes the Commission’s recommendation that the Parole Board should be established on an independent statutory basis. The recommendations are included in the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Mandatory Sentencing, which was published today (11th June 2013).

On publication of the Report, IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick said:

“IPRT has campaigned for many years against mandatory and presumptive sentencing regimes for drugs and firearm offences, which were introduced over the past 15 years as a knee-jerk reaction to organised crime and which have proven to be an expensive policy failure. Mandatory sentencing does not act as a deterrent or provide for greater consistency or proportionality in sentencing. Instead, it has increased the number of low-level offenders serving lengthy sentences in prisons, at great expense to the taxpayer with no positive impact on crime rates.

“Furthermore, IPRT has long campaigned for decision-making around the release of life-sentenced prisoners to be removed from political control through granting the Parole Board independence and placing it on statutory basis, as recommended by Law Reform Commission. IPRT is calling the Minister for Justice to act immediately to fulfill his commitments in this regard.”

Although strongly welcoming the Law Reform Commission report overall, IPRT described as “regrettable” the Commission’s decision to row back on its previous recommendations to repeal the mandatory life sentence for murder included in its 1996 Report on Sentencing. In line with the principles of justice and proportionality IPRT believes that, even for murder, judges should be able to distinguish between more and less heinous offences. While there may be some merit to a tariff system as recommended by the Law Reform Commission as part of a wider process of reform, IPRT considers the need for an independent parole process as the more urgent issue.

For all media enquiries, please contact: Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT Communications Officer on 087 181 2990

1. IPRT Event: ‘Breaking the Record – Moving On?’

On Wed 12th June 2012, IPRT will hold an information seminar, ‘Breaking the Record – Moving On?’ focusing on the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. The seminar will address outstanding legal issues with regard to both pieces of legislation and will explore how both systems will work in practice. 

Speakers are: Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes, Senator Jillian van Turnout, Mary Cunningham, Director of the NYCI and Remy Farrell SC. Of relevance to employers and volunteer organisations, along with people affected by the issues, the event takes place from 4-6pm on Wed 12th June 2013 in Pearse St Library, Pearse St, Dublin 2.

2. IPRT on Parole Reform

The IPRT Position Paper on Reform of Remission, Temporary Release and Parole outlines IPRT recommendations for reform of prisoner early release mechanisms, including detailed proposals for reform of the Parole Board and the parole process: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2443 (22 Oct 2012)

3. IPRT on Mandatory Sentencing

The IPRT Position Paper on Mandatory Sentencing describes the advantages and disadvantages of these sentences as evidenced here and in other jurisdictions, and outlines alternatives to mandatory or presumptive sentencing: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1242 (30 May 2009)

4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie 

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.

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