Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Niall Collins is urging the Government to accept legislation from the opposition on the creation of a new Judicial Sentencing Commission, to promote a clear, fair and consistent approach to court decisions made on sentencing.

It comes in the wake of outrage about a sentence handed down to a man who pleaded guilty to rape and sexual assault. The victim has spoken out about the devastating effect that the offence has had on her life and the negative effect the sentence has had on her hope and confidence in the criminal justice system.

Deputy Collins commented: “Everything about this case has been deeply disturbing. When a rape victim publicly says that she thought her attacker would at least spend some tokenistic time in jail for his crimes, something is seriously wrong.  Rape is ultimately one of the worst violations that one human can do to another.  The sentences applied by our legal system need to be tough and they need to be fairly applied.  The victim in this case has shown enormous courage and I commend her for highlighting the case but I agree with her comments today that the onus should not be on victims to challenge the system.

“Legislation brought forward by Fianna Fáil to establish a Judicial Sentencing Commission, similar to the model in England and Wales, is currently awaiting debate in the Dáil.  This would reform the area of criminal sentencing, improve consistency and work to enhance public confidence.  Under Fianna Fáil’s proposal, the Commission would be made up of eight Judicial Members appointed by the Chief Justice; six non-Judicial Members appointed by the Minister with the agreement of the Chief Justice and two judicial members would serve as Chair and Deputy Chair.

“This new Commission would be tasked with preparing sentencing guidelines for criminal offences, taking into account the following:

(a) the sentences imposed by Courts in Ireland for offences;
(b) the need to promote consistency in sentencing;
(c) the impact of sentencing decisions on victims of criminal offences;
(d) the need to promote public confidence in the criminal justice system;
(e) the cost of different sentences and their relevant effectiveness in preventing re-offending;

“The Judicial Sentencing Commission would also monitor the operation of the sentencing guidelines and provide annual reports to the Dáil.

“The case highlighted this week is not the first time Ireland’s sentences in the courts have come under the spotlight.  It is clear that the system needs to be more transparent and consistent. By establishing clear and accountable guidelines for criminal convictions, Judges would be supported in their decision-making while their independence is maintained, something which is paramount in our democratic process and the administration of justice.  I am urging the Government look again at the proposals we have brought forward in this area and agree to progress the legislation through the Dáil.”

Judicial Sentencing Commission Bill 2013