Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn calls for a Sentencing Council and new Sentencing Guidelines for the Judiciary
As you would expect, the motions touch on our party’s objective for an All-Ireland policing service and our determination that in the interim, the PSNI and An Garda Síochána are fully accountable to the communities they serve through the Policing Board and the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships in the Six Counties and the Joint Policing Partnerships in the 26 Counties.
139 garda stations, mainly in rural areas, have been closed in the last 18 months in the face of much opposition from the communities they have served.
For the last number of years, gardaí have endured the loss of hundreds of their experienced colleagues with no new recruits to replace them. They are often asked to protect our communities, driving clapped out vehicles that are not replaced due to cutbacks. They have witnessed the closure of garda stations across our cities and villages and cringed when Minister Alan Shatter explains that this is all about “smart policing” and “efficiencies”.
The government must examine the re-opening of Garda stations which have been closed and the restoration of full service in these stations.
They must provide for the lifting of the embargo to start recruitment of trainee gardaí to replace those retiring over the next number of years.
They must halt reductions in Garda numbers, ensure that gardaí have the required number of vehicles and ensure greater emphasis on community policing with resources dedicated to the promotion and support of community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes.
Equality is at the heart of everything that our party stands for. Equality is the cornerstone of Irish Republicanism.
Sinn Féin stands in solidarity with those across this Island who fight for their rights every day. This last while, we have been truly inspired by the women of the Magdalene Laundries. They must have proper redress with compensation and their full pensions granted.
We stand with disability rights campaigners. They inspired us too with their dignity as they protested outside Leinster House in the bitter cold.
There are a number of motions on the Clár, soon to be debated, advocating travellers’ rights and marriage equality. I urge you to support them.
I also urge you to support the amendments from the Oireachtas Group on motions 159 and 160. While I understand the sentiment behind the motions, I believe that the amendments better outline Sinn Féin’s approach to justice and penal reform.
We need a Sentencing Council and new Sentencing Guidelines for the judiciary to ensure accountability and consistency in sentencing, particularly for violent crimes and sexual assaults.
We also need to ensure that any remission granted to persons convicted of sexual offences is based on participation in the Prison Service’s Sex Offenders Treatment Programmes and genuine rehabilitation.
Finally, I would like to speak in support of motion 162 asking this Ard Fhéis to endorse the “Turn off The Red Light” campaign supported by trade unions and a wide range of civic society organisations.
There are as many as 1,000 women and girls for sale for sex in Ireland today. Prostitution is not a real choice for the vast majority of these women.
In countries, like Sweden, where the purchase of sex is illegal, there has been a massive decline in prostitution and a significant reduction in sex trafficking and organised crime.
The “Turn off The Red Light” campaign argues that the most effective solution is to tackle the demand for paid sex that fuels prostitution and trafficking.
There is no perfect panacea to this challenge but I believe that putting the onus of responsibility on the user rather than the woman or sometimes man prostituted is a more humanitarian and I would argue Republican approach. We also need to ensure that those in prostitution are supported to exit this life and make a fresh start by a range of government services working together in an integrated fashion.