Minister for Justice publishes Justice Plan 2023
5th April 2023
Minister for Justice Simon Harris has published Justice Plan 2023, outlining 140 actions to continue building a justice system that works for everyone.
Justice Plan 2023 is the third and final in a series of annual plans outlining the actions required to deliver against the high-level goals and objectives set out by the Department of Justice in ‘A safe, fair and inclusive Ireland: Statement of Strategy 2021-2023. (See IPRT’s overview of Justice Plan 2022 and Justice Plan 2021.)
Of the 140 actions in Justice Plan 2023, many of them relate to IPRT’s work. These include:
- Review minimum custodial terms for persons sentenced to life imprisonment (Q2)
- Continue to promote and support the provision of restorative justice at all stages of the criminal justice system (Q2)
- Consider options to deliver additional prison spaces in the short to medium term (3-5 years) (Q2)
- Analysis of prosecution data for 2022 to establish the scale of cases that ordinarily would have been dealt with by the Courts and assessment of projected impact on prison numbers (Q3)
- Analysis of projected population trends and demographics should be undertaken to establish the possible impact on the use of custody (Q4)
- Bring a memo to Government to establish a task force to improve education and upskilling across the criminal justice system, starting with prison education. The task force will also consider youth justice issues, will agree a work programme, and be co-chaired at Ministerial level in both Departments (Ongoing)
- Review and report to the Minister on the existing functions, powers, appointment procedures and reporting processes of Prison Visiting Committees (Q1)
- Implement the recommendations of the High Level Task Force on the mental health and addiction challenges of those who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System with responsibilities and tasks assigned across different departments and multiple agencies (Q4).
- Develop and establish a Penal Policy Consultative Council to consider matters relating to penal policy and to provide advice to the Minister as appropriate (Q2)
- Complete review of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 and begin implementation of agreed actions (Q2)
- Complete policy review of the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014 incorporating consideration of a statutory basis for prison as a sanction of last resort by publishing the policy review by publishing the policy review (Q2) and progressing the General Scheme of Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill (Q4) Review the policy of holding immigration detainees in prisons (Q2)
- Finalise and bring to Government the General Scheme of a Bill to provide a statutory basis for the IPS among other structural governance reforms (Q2)
The Plan states that the review of minimum custodial terms for people sentenced to life in prison, potentially allowing judges to set minimum tariffs, will be carried out this year, with policy proposals developed in Q2 2023 and the General Scheme of a new Bill published in Q3 2023.
The Plan also notes that the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, the Bill intended to ratify OPCAT, will be published in Q2 2023 and support will be given to progress through the Oireachtas in Q4.
However, while the implementation of a new complaints system was not previously included as an action in Justice Plan 2022, it was noted that the Department “will work with the Irish Prison Service to ensure the implementation of a new complaints system”. Notably, the implementation of a new complaints system is not referred to in Justice Plan 2023.
IPRT has concerns about objective 102 of the plan, which seeks to potentially expand prison capacity based on a consideration of options for expansion, analysis of prosecution data and project population trends. IPRT urges that, in the first instance, actions of the Plan that focus on the development of diversion and community-based alternatives to custody should be given appropriate attention and resourcing in advance of resorting to measures that expand Ireland’s prison estate.
Read Justice Plan 2023 in full here.