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Mac Lochlainn publishes legislation to introduce a Sentencing Council

8 October, 2015 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has published legislation that would introduce a Sentencing Council in this State.

A Sentencing Council already operates in England and Wales and provides sentencing guidelines to the judiciary. This has ensured that sentences handed out for criminal offences in their courts are consistent and accountable across the board.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“Concern has arisen over recent years about the perceived inconsistency of sentencing in our courts. Of particular concern and controversy have been some sentences handed out for sexual offences.

“Sinn Féin has examined the Sentencing Council model in place in England and Wales for some time and we believe that this model of consistency and accountability should be introduced in this State”.

 “A key strength of the Sentencing Council model is that it involves a range of key stakeholders such as victim support groups, academics, senior police officers, senior parole officers, and the wider public in the process of establishing sentencing guidelines for the judiciary.

“As members of the Judiciary are the majority members of the Sentencing Council and a senior member of the judiciary chairs the Council, they are still central to the process.

“However, the sentencing guidelines issued ensure that the judiciary must stick to the range provided for the category of offence before them. They must also clearly indicate why they have sentenced an offender within that range, taking into consideration the impact on the victim and the blameworthiness of the offender. This ensures consistency and accountability across the court system and across the State.”

He concluded:

“Similar to the Sentencing Council in England and Wales, the Sentencing Council we are proposing for this State would

        Develop sentencing guidelines and monitor their use;

         Assess the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice. It may also be required to consider the impact of policy and legislative proposals relating to sentencing, when requested by the Government; and

       Promote awareness amongst the public regarding the realities of sentencing and publishing information regarding sentencing practice in our court system.

         Consider the impact of sentencing decisions on victims;

      Monitor the application of the guidelines, better to predict the effect of them; and

Play a greater part in promoting understanding of and increasing public confidence in, sentencing and the criminal justice system.” 

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