Ireland Law Reform Commission Report on Mandatory Sentences
From the press release:
"The Commission’s Report discusses in detail: (1) the specific aims of criminal sanctions, which include deterrence, punishment, reform and rehabilitation, reparation, and incapacitation; and (2) the key principles in sentencing of consistency and proportionality. The Report contains a detailed analysis of sentencing guidance given by Irish courts in recent years, which have included: (a) the points of departure in the sentencing of certain serious offences, such as manslaughter, rape and robbery; (b) sentencing ranges for serious offences; and (c) factors that aggravate and mitigate the gravity of an offence and severity of a sentence. These key principles of sentencing law form the basis for the Commission’s responses to the Attorney General’s request."Among the recommendations:
"The Commission notes that the only completely mandatory sentence in Ireland is the life sentence for murder – judges have no discretion here and must impose a life sentence. They do not even have the power to suggest any specific minimum sentence, unlike the position in other jurisdictions..."
"The Commission also examined other 'presumptive' mandatory sentences, such as those introduced in 1999 for certain drugs offences and in 2006 for certain firearms offences. The drugs offence law states that 10 years should be imposed where the 'street value' is over €13,000, but also allows for a lesser sentence in exceptional and specific circumstances. The Commission also examined other mandatory sentences law which require judges to impose higher or consecutive sentences where the convicted person is, for example, a repeat offender."
The report examines the situation in other jurisdictions, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.
- the Commission recommends that the presumptive sentencing regime that applies to certain drugs and firearms offences should be repealed and should not be extended to any other offences. The Report notes that the presumptive drugs offences regime has had the following results: the adaptation of the illegal drugs trade to the sentencing regime by using expendable couriers to hold and transport drugs; that these relatively low-level offenders, rather than those at the top of the illegal drugs trade, are being apprehended and dealt with under the presumptive regime; a high level of guilty pleas in order to avoid the presumptive minimum sentence; and a consequent increase in the prison system comprising low-level drugs offenders. The Commission also recommends that a more structured, guidance-based sentencing system (as envisaged in the first recommendation mentioned above) would provide an appropriate alternative to these provisions. In the context of drug-related crime, the Commission also considers that law enforcement efforts may be beneficially supplemented by other initiatives, such as those highlighted in the research conducted by the Health Research Board and the Misuse of Drugs work sector of the British-Irish Council.
- the Commission recommends that the existing legislation concerning mandatory sentences (and, where relevant, presumptive sentences) that applies in the case of second and subsequent offences should also be repealed and should not be extended to any other offences. The Commission also recommends that the more structured, guidance-based sentencing system (as envisaged in the Report) would provide an appropriate alternative to these provisions.