Sinn Féin call for introduction of sentencing guidelines for judges
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has called on Minister Alan Shatter to establish proper sentencing guidelines as part of a range of measures to address prison over-crowding.
Deputy O’Brien was speaking following a presentation today by the Probation Service and Irish Prison Service, at the Sub-Committee on Penal Reform.
Deputy O’Brien said:
“In today’s committee meeting, presentations were delivered by the Probation Service and Irish Prison Service which detailed the 30% increase in the prison population in Ireland between 2006 and 2010, which has placed a massive strain on the ability of the prison service to accommodate prisoners in humane conditions.
“This is not due to a significant increase in cases attracting a prison sentences but because the average length of sentences being handed down has increased. The minister now needs to take a fresh look at how a reform of sentencing policy can reduce the prison population.
“Sinn Féin recognises the critical role of sentencing in the justice system. In our view, sentencing and penal policy objectives should focus on community protection and rehabilitation. We understand that custody does not make a meaningful contribution to justice unless it is underpinned by an effective regime that serves crime prevention and offender reintegration objectives.
“Sinn Féin is opposed to the use of mandatory sentencing, and we welcome the recent Law Reform Commission report on the issue. While advocates of mandatory sentencing argue that it makes sentencing more consistent and makes judges more accountable for their decisions, it is a blunt tool that holds the potential for miscarriages of justice.
“I am calling on the Minister for Justice to introduce sentencing guidelines to ensure consistency, supported by a training programme for the judiciary and a Sentencing Guidelines Council to provide monitoring in this area, as part of a broad range of measures to address prison overcrowding.”