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.

US: Downsizing the Prison Population 10th March 2010

The reduction of the prison population is the focus of two US reports. Read more

UK: The Cost of Short Sentences 10th March 2010

A new report by the National Audit Office in the UK highlights the social and economic cost of short sentences. Read more

IPRT Briefing: Fines Bill 2009 (Report Stage) 1st March 2010 PDF documents

A short document outlining amendments to the Fines Bill 2009, necessary to ensure that imprisonment is used only as a last resort for fine default. Read more

Scotland: Police Chief calls for radical overhaul of community sentences 19th February 2010

Chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, calls for a radical change in way the system as a whole works to prevent crime rather than simply mop up the aftermath. Read more

Sentencing back in the Spotllight. 8th February 2010

Following a recent high profile-case, sentencing is back in the media spotlight Read more

RTE's 'The Frontline': Mandatory Sentencing for Burglary 1st February 2010

The issue of mandatory sentencing for burglary was the subject of RTE's 'The Frontline' this week; IPRT's Liam Herrick and others voice their opposition to such moves. Read more

Scotland: Using short term sentences does more harm than good. 9th June 2009

Locking up prisoners for short periods of six months or less could endanger public safety, according to prison chiefs in Scotland. (The Carrick Gazette) Read more

Position Paper on Mandatory Sentencing 28th May 2009

A Position Paper, published May 2009, outlining IPRT's position on mandatory and presumptive sentencing. Read more

Sentencing in the District Courts, 2003 7th January 2005 PDF documents

In June 2003, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) undertook a research study on patterns of sentencing in the Dublin District Court. Read more

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