Irish Penal Reform Trust

Sentencing

A strategic goal of IPRT is to promote reform of Irish sentencing practice and help ensure greater transparency around the principles and purposes of sentencing.  

We aim to promote the principle that detention should only be used as a last resort while remaining committed to supporting the principles of proportionality and judicial independence in sentencing.  

IPRT believes that imprisonment itself causes serious social harms, and therefore should only be used sparingly at the point of sentencing when non-custodial alternatives are not available or are deemed inappropriate. 

IPRT does not support any type of sentencing that either removes or severely limits the discretion of the judge to decide what sentence should apply, given all the circumstances of the case.  

One example of this approach is mandatory sentencing, where there is no discretion left to the judge. It means that for certain offences, the judge must impose a particular sentence (a particular term of imprisonment). There is no other option regarding sentencing available to the court.  

Another example is called ‘presumptive minimum’ sentencing; this type of sentence means that a judge must apply a specific minimum penalty, unless exceptional circumstances exist that would make it unfair or unjust to do so. However, such circumstances can often only be considered for the first offence, as for second or other offences, the minimum sentence must then be imposed regardless. This type of sentencing is often used with serious offences, such as certain drug offences, firearms offences, and murder (murder carries a mandatory life sentence). IPRT opposes this type of sentencing on the basis that such sentences are ineffective in preventing or responding to crime.  

In the Criminal Justice Policy: Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024, the Department of Justice outlined actions that will significantly impact sentencing in Ireland, such as proposals to incorporate the principle of ‘prison as a last resort’ in statute and to develop and expand the range of community sanctions as alternatives to imprisonment. IPRT will continue to advocate for the Government to meet these commitments.  

Explainer: Suspended sentences

27th February 2024

Explainer: Suspended sentences

Explainer: Community Service Orders

27th February 2024

Explainer: Community Service Orders

Explainer: Conditional Discharge (Probation)

27th February 2024

Explainer: Conditional Discharge (Probation)

RTÉ: Why are guilty pleas in murder cases uncommon?

19th November 2023

IPRT joins the conversation on mandatory life sentencing.

Parole Board's Annual Report 2021-2022 published

15th September 2023

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the publication of the Parole Board's Annual Report 2021-2022.

IPRT welcomes Penal Policy Review and Action Plan as a Major Step in the Right Direction

31st August 2022

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has today (Wed 31 August 2022) welcomed the Penal Policy Review and associated Action Plan approved by Cabinet. 

Prison recidivism 2016 and 2019 cohorts

21st June 2022

CSO reoffending data show that almost 62.3% of people released from prison in 2016 re-offended within three years of their release. The data indicates that 44.6% of people released from prison in 2019 reoffended in the year following their release.

First Interim Report on Assessing Methodological Approaches to Sentencing Data & Analysis

20th January 2022

The Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee has published the First Interim Report prepared by the University of Strathclyde as part of a project entitled “Assessing Methodological Approaches to Sentencing Data Collection & Analysis”. The report explores the statistical information necessary to support guideline construction and guideline monitoring.

Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee publishes Sentencing Judgement Guidelines for the General Public

10th January 2022

The Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee has published a short information guide for the public on the core factors influencing sentencing, in the form of bullet points. 

Developing Sentencing Guidelines for Ireland: The Principles and Purposes of Sentencing

21st October 2021

This IPRT and ICBA Prison Law Seminar took place online on Thursday 21st October 2021, with the keynote address delivered by The Hon. Ms. Justice Iseult O'Malley.

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Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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