Irish Penal Reform Trust

Party manifesto analysis: Green Party

The Green Party launched their election manifesto, 'Act Now', on Friday 12th February 2016. The manifesto can be accessed here. Below, IPRT analyses relevant proposals in the section 'A Just Society', in which the Green Party states: "Citizens deserve to enjoy the rule of law in a fair and equal manner".

3. A Just Society

3.1 Justice

An Garda Síochána

Similar to all parties, the Green Party makes a number of commitments towards increased Garda numbers and Garda resourcing. Other proposals include:

  • Increase the use of targeted burglary response units across the country and enhance the prosecution rates of those involved in these crimes by assigning them case managers as their offences move through the courts

Approaches that prioritise detection and swift and robust prosecution have proven to be effective in reducing crime rates in other jurisdictions. Certainly, the evidence is that this approach is much more effective in addressing crime rates than the proposals of Fianna Fáil and Renua Ireland, who have put forward regressive mandatory sentencing proposals as a response to burglary offences.

Case management has also been demonstrated to have positive results in dealing with chronic repeat offenders, particularly among young people. For example, the Garda Case Management initiative in the Dublin Metropolitan North Central division saw a 64% improvement rate. These approaches are resource intensive but effective - and make for better investment than the costs of locking more people up for longer. Moreover, it represents a policy proposal based on evidence of what works (unlike mandatory sentencing).

For more detail on IPRT's position on mandatory sentencing and the evidence which informs it, see here.

  • Seek to improve the newly formed Policing Authority by removing any political role in the appointment of the chair and the members, giving it a role in reviewing policing priorities and having it oversee the implementation of human rights by the Gardaí
  • Enhance the resources available to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and give it a role in investigation disciplinary as well as criminal breaches

IPRT welcomes all commitments to improving accountability and transparency across the criminal justice system. In particular, IPRT calls for the establishment of an independent Parole Board which removes decision-making from political control, and for the establishment of a Prisoner Ombudsman or equivalent mechanism to hear individual complaints.

For more detail on IPRT's position on prison accountability and the evidence which informs it, see here.

Justice System:

  • Create an independent sentencing council which will produce guidelines for judges to follow in implementing sentences. This council will bring together members of the judiciary, legal profession, and non-legal members. It will also have a public consultation and education mandate

Experience from England and Wales supports the Green Party’s proposal that a sentencing council may bolster public confidence in the operation of the justice system. A similar proposal is also included in the manifestos of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

The inclusion of the public consultation and education mandate in the Green Party manifesto is welcome. Again, experience of the Sentencing Council in England & Wales has proven that public confidence in the justice system is greatly enhanced through education and information initiatives.

Regular collation and publication of sentencing data would also allow the public to assess whether inconsistent or lenient sentencing practice does, in fact, exist in Ireland. IPRT believes that proper resourcing of projects such as the Irish Sentencing Project is crucial in this regard. It is crucial that policy and legislation are based on analysis of real data and facts.

For evidence to support proposals for sentencing guidelines, see here.

  • Provide a mechanism to fund necessary public interest litigation

PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance) defines public interest law as a way of working with the law for the advancement and protection of human rights for the benefit of marginalised and disadvantaged people. To this end, IPRT supports the Green Party proposal. For more information on public interest law movement in Ireland, see here

For more information about IPRT's work in the area of prison law and litigation, see here

  • Introduce ‘spent conviction’ legislation that provides for the lapsing of certain offences from an individual’s record after the passing of a set period of time

In fact, the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Bill 2012 recently passed both houses of the Oireachtas. Although IPRT welcomed the legislation, we believe that the legislation does not go far enough and will not meet its original purpose of supporting the reintegration of people with offending histories, with the ultimate aim of reducing reoffending in the future. 

For more detail on IPRT's campaign for robust Spent Convictions legislation, see here.

Victims of crime:

  • Fully Implement and resource the EU Victims of Crime Directive including the full provision of victim liaison officers
  • Establish a system of monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Victims’ Charter
  • Review the work of the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime and conduct an audit of the victims support services around the country in order to ensure greater coordination and cohesion between victims’ caring groups
  • Ensure widespread promotion of the National Crime Victims’ Helpline
  • Introduce legislation to criminalise the practice commonly referred to as “revenge porn"

IPRT agrees with all parties that victims are currently ill-served by the Irish criminal justice system, and support commitments to implementation of the EU Victims Directive.

For IPRT's submission on the EU Victims Directive, see here.


  • Explore the possibility of developing an after prison support system, with one agency coordinating fully integrated supports for accommodation, education, employment

Rates of reoffending on release from prison are too high, and must be addressed. An inter-agency approach to provision of housing, employment/training, and community mental health and health services and supports, is crucial in this regard. To this end, the Green Party proposal offers strong potential. 

Preparation for release should begin the first day that a prisoner starts his or her sentence, with well-resourced integrated sentence management, education/training, and other treatments and services in prison. Provision of a minimum of 12 hours out-of-cell time to engage in meaningful activities is also essential. 

Initiatives to support relationships between prisoners and their families have proven to be among the most effective in terms of reducing offending and - equally important - of improving outcomes for prisoners' children. The fair and transparent use of temporary release towards the end of a prisoner's sentence further supports the integration of a prisoner back into his or her family - from the family's perspective as much as the prisoner.

For more detail on IPRT's research in the area of reintegration of offenders, see here.

For IPRT's ground-breaking research on children and families of prisoners, see here.

  • Increase the age limit for the application of the Garda Youth Diversion to 18-24 year olds

IPRT fully supports this proposal of the Green Party. A significant body of international research shows that young adults are more at risk of becoming involved in offending behaviour, and that prison is often an inappropriate and counterproductive means of dealing with young adults. Interventions and good practice that have proven successful in the Irish youth justice system should be extended to young adults aged 18-24.

For more information about IPRT's research on more effective approaches to offending by young people aged 18-24, grounded in emerging evidence and best practice, see here.

  • Enhance accountability within prisons and other places of detention through ratifying and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture [OPCAT]

IPRT strongly welcomes this commitment of the Green Party. Ireland signed the OPCAT in 2007, but has so far failed to ratify it.

For more detail on IPRT's position on prison accountability and the evidence which informs it, see here.

IPRT held a conference on 'Securing Accountability: Building effective prison monitoring, inspection, and complaints systems' in November 2015. See here.


For IPRT's 'Smart Justice, Safer Communities' Policy Proposals 2016-2021, click here.

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