Irish Penal Reform Trust

Law Reform Commission publishes Fifth Programme of Law Reform

5th June 2019

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has published its Fifth Programme of Law Reform. The Fifth Programme contains 15 projects, organised under 6 general subject headings. Of these 15 projects, IPRT particularly welcomes a focus on ‘Structured Sentencing’.

The Fifth Programme was prepared by the Commission following extensive public consultation throughout 2017 and 2018. IPRT made a submission to this consultation in February 2018 calling for the inclusion of an examination of current sentencing practice in Ireland and an exploration the merits of establishing sentencing guidelines in the new programme. Our submission focused on, inter alia: a lack of clear consensus on the purpose of sentencing; a lack of coherent sentencing policy; disparity and inconsistency; absence of discretion (e.g. mandatory sentences); public mistrust in the sentencing process; and absence of sentencing guidelines. The Fifth Programme states that a number of the 150 submissions made during the consultation period suggested an examination of sentencing by the LRC.

As part of the 'Structured Sentencing' project, the LRC plans to consider to what extent the general principles of sentencing, combined with a suitable sentencing information database, could provide the basis for a structured sentencing system. According to the Programme “the objective is to achieve uniformity or consistency of approach rather than uniformity of outcomes”. The Commission intends on will examine a number of models, including the Sentencing Council of England and Wales and the development of sentencing guidance in Northern Ireland.

Sentencing is currently a matter of significant public interest. IPRT believes that a comprehensive review of sentencing would contribute to the domestic knowledge base on how current sentencing practice works and how we can move towards effective sentencing policy based on evidence.

See IPRT Submissions to the Law Reform Commission here.

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