IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Sentencing

IPRT recognises the critical role of sentencing in the penal system.

Our starting point is that imprisonment itself causes a number of serious social harms, therefore imprisonment should only be used sparingly at the point of sentencing and the numbers in prison should be reduced.

As a key strategic goal for IPRT, we aim to promote the embedding and extension of the principle that detention should only be used as a last resort, while remaining committed to retaining and supporting the principles of proportionality and judicial independence in sentencing.

The principle of parsimony in the use of imprisonment is reflected in section 96 of the Children Act 2001, which directs sentencing courts to use imprisonment only as a last resort. IPRT believes that this principle should also be enshrined in legislation for adult offenders and that there should be an onus on judges to exhaust all other options before imposing a custodial sentence. IPRT will be monitoring closely over the next few years how this principle is being applied in relation to the youth justice system.

In practice, we believe that greater transparency in sentencing can be achieved as well as better coordination between sentencing authorities and other agencies on the penal system.

User Views of Punishment: The comparative experience of short term prison sentences and community based punishments 12th November 2010

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research has published a new report detailing the impacts of short sentences, in both prison and the community, on offenders. Read more

UK: Public Opinion and Sentencing for Murder 28th October 2010

New research carried out by the Nuffield Foundation suggests that public support for the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for murder is much more limited than has traditionally been assumed. Read more

UK: The Reality of Short Term Prison Sentences 14th October 2010

Research carried out by the Howard League for Penal Reform, in collaboration with the Prison Governors' Association, has shown that many prison governors do not believe that short sentences are effective. Read more

US: Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission 12th October 2010

In the United States, the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission has recently started to provide judges and others involved in sentencing and corrections with information about treatment programs and supervision options available in the community and in prison. Read more

Inspector of Prisons calls for new courts system 1st September 2010

The Inspector of Prisons has called for a new courts system which would address the causes of criminality rather than criminalise offenders, reports Cormac O'Keeffe in the 'Irish Examiner'. Read more

New Sentencing Database Launched 3rd August 2010

The Irish Sentencing Information System provides a new online tool for researching sentencing. Read more

Community courts can play a role in our criminal justice system 28th June 2010

Judge Michael Reilly the inspector of prisons describes how both numbers of criminal offences and the prison population can be reduced. Read more

England & Wales: Scrap prison building and increase non-custodial sanctions 21st June 2010

The Prison Governors Association, Napo (probation officers' union) and the Howard League have today called on the government to end its £4 billion prison building programme, and to instead increase the use of community sanctions. Read more

Drug Treatment Court to be Expanded 24th May 2010

The numbers being processed through the Drug Treatment Court are to be expanded following a review which shows that the scheme has reduced reoffending rates. Read more

Irish Times: Fines Bill passed by the Dáil 16th March 2010

After nearly a year, the Fines Bill has been passed by the Dail and has gone to the Seanad for its approval. It is hoped that the draft legislation will become law by the summer. Read more

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