Written Answers. - Sentencing Policy.

Robert Molloy


40 Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Justice the proposals, if any, she has arising from numerous judicial concerns which have been expressed about the inability to apply the life sentence owing to a guilty plea; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9195/97]

The situation remains as set out in my answer to the Deputy's Question No. 83 of 27 February 1997. The question of the appropriate sentence which is to be imposed in any particular case is a matter for the court to determine in accordance with law. It would not be appropriate for me as Minister for Justice to comment on sentences in individual cases. It should be borne in mind, however, that where a sentence appears to be too lenient the law does allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal that sentence.

The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission both in a consultation paper and their report last year on the matter. Action has already been taken on a number of recommendations contained in the report and other recommendations are being examined in my Department.

As I mentioned in my earlier reply, chapter 6 of the Commission's report refers to the type of issue which I assume the Deputy has in mind. In particular it discusses the Supreme Court decision in D.P.P.v. G [1994] I.R. 587 and related decisions relating to the weight to be given to guilty pleas when imposing sentences. Essentially, the Commission appears to be of the view that the relevant rulings of higher courts did not necessarily oblige a court in all circumstances where a guilty plea had been entered to impose less than a life sentence. The Commission, which was of the view that it would not be appropriate to address this matter by way of legislation, indicated that “the situation is confused and should be clarified as soon as possible by the Supreme Court”.