Enough is enough - Ní Mhurchú calls for an end to lenient sentences for those convicted of violence against women

Published on: 21 June 2024

Ireland South MEP Cynthia Ní Mhurchú has described as abhorrent the suspended sentence handed down to a serving soldier in the Defence Forces who beat a woman unconscious in a random street attack in Limerick. The former barrister and current MEP described the fully suspended sentence as a kick in the teeth for victims of gender based violence. 
Ní Mhurchú, who spent 27 years representing victims of domestic violence in the Irish courts system described Irish courts as a daunting place for the victims of gender based violence. Ní Mhurchú has called for more training to be provided to Irish judges around sexual and gender based violence but also around the adverse impact that attacks on women can have, on their long term mental health and well being and employment prospects. 
According to Ní Mhurchú, women are entitled to know that heinous crimes against them will be prosecuted robustly and that appropriate sentences will be imposed on those convicted.
Ní Mhurchú said she is sickened to the stomach by the trauma that the victim went through in this case.
“We need to ensure that our courts take a more victim centred approach, as laid down in the Istanbul convention and EU Directive on Combating All Forms of Violence Against Women. I don’t think that standard was fully reflected in this case and I think in turn it reflects poorly on both our criminal justice system, and on the Defence Forces. Unfortunately it sends a clear message to victims and to the public at large that it is ok to perpetrate extreme violence against women and walk out the front door of the court house."
Ní Mhurchú, a trained family barrister and now MEP,  recently visited women’s shelters in Tipperary, Carlow and Waterford and pointed to the sensitivity that surrounds a domestic violence and sexual and gender based violence case, and the importance that the victim, normally a woman, needs to be supported to feel listened to, and understood so that she can be confident in not only reporting the crime but also proceeding with prosecuting her complaint.
She has called for more training for judges presiding over cases involving violence against women.
“Training could be delivered by other judges, medical practitioners, former victims, and specialist psychologists. The court room can be a cold and daunting place for a victim of domestic, gender and sexual violence and we need to ensure that we do everything in our power to ensure women are not prevented from coming forward or are too scared to prosecute such crimes. The key thing is that the training should be structured and regular, not ad hoc.”