I agree with the Deputy that burglary is a most serious offence. I am mindful of the impact it can have on a victim, particularly a victim who is elderly or vulnerable. Reflecting the seriousness of the crime, there are stringent penalties in place for burglary offences. Under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, the offence of burglary is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment. Aggravated burglary, where a weapon is involved, is punishable by up to life imprisonment. The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 was introduced by my predecessor specifically to target repeat offenders, with provisions on consecutive sentencing and bail.
Within the parameters set by the Oireachtas, the sentence to be imposed in a given case is a matter for the courts. The Deputy will be aware that judges are independent in the matter of sentencing, subject only to the Constitution and the law. The court is required to impose a sentence which is proportionate, not only to the crime but also to the individual offender, in the process of identifying where in the sentencing range the particular case should lie and applying any mitigating factor which may be present. The vulnerability of a victim, including vulnerability by reason of age, may be regarded by the court as an aggravating circumstance.
The Deputy may be aware of recent judgments by the Court of Appeal which set down sentencing guidelines for burglary and robbery. In this jurisprudence the court stated that if a considerable number of aggravating factors were present, it would raise the offence to the highest category, meriting a sentence of nine to 14 years before mitigating factors could be taken into account. In addition, I have indicated that I will be bringing forward amendments to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 which will address the matter of sentencing guidelines more generally. The amendments are close to finalisation and I am satisfied that they will strengthen the provisions contained in the Bill which provide for a sentencing information committee.