Judges will have power to set minimum sentences in murder cases under new proposals

Judges will have the power to set minimum sentences in the most heinous murder cases under proposals being considered by Justice Minister Helen McEntee.

While the average life sentence served in Ireland is 20 years, judges would have the discretion to impose a minimum of 20 or 30 years or even longer if they feel it is warranted in a particular case.

The proposals are among the 159 actions of the Justice Plan 2022, which is published today (Monday).

Other measures to be brought forward by the government this year are reforming the way judges are appointed and enacting legislation allowing the use of body cameras by gardaí.

Deliberations on minimum sentences for life sentences are expected to be completed by the summer. The proposals are to be presented to the government in the fall.

Ms McEntee said she believed in a criminal justice system “where the punishment matches the crime”.

His goal in crafting the proposals is to enable courts to reflect the aggravating circumstances and seriousness of certain murder cases.

Over the past decade, the average sentence served by life-sentenced inmates is approximately 20 years. The sentence remains applicable after release and failure to comply with the conditions of parole results in the offender’s return to prison.

At the end of January, 359 people were serving life sentences in Ireland, 343 for murder and 16 for another offence.

There are currently 16 people who have served over 30 years, and some of them have served over 40 years.


A 2013 Law Reform Commission report recommended that judges have the power to set minimum sentences in murder cases where mandatory life sentences apply.

The proposal currently under consideration would also be in line with recent legislative changes recommended by the commission, including the introduction of sentencing guidelines and an information committee of the Judicial Council and the Independent Commission of parole set up last year.

The Justice Department said reforms completed or underway under last year’s justice plan include the opening of the regularization program for undocumented migrants and improvements to the adjudication process for sex offenses. , white collar crime and organized crime.

Work has reportedly been carried out across government on a new national strategy to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Ms McEntee said that under the 2022 plan, she will lead work to achieve “zero tolerance” on these issues. She said victims will be better supported through the implementation of Supporting a Victim’s Journey, the plan that puts them “at the heart of the criminal justice system”.

Hunt down

The Justice 2022 Plan plans to prioritize the introduction of specific new criminal offenses of non-fatal harassment and strangulation.

The plan also aims to break the connection between criminal gangs and the children they try to recruit with new laws to criminalize child grooming and increase the penalty for conspiracy to murder.

The Department of Justice will also participate in the whole-of-government response to the refugee crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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