I am sure the Deputy will agree that burglary is a most serious offence, in particular, where the victim may be elderly or vulnerable, and that it often leaves a lasting impact. Given the seriousness of the crime, there are significant sentences in place in the law for burglary offences. I refer to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 which provides for sentences of up to 14 years' imprisonment. Aggravated burglary - where a weapon may be used - is punishable by a sentence of up to life imprisonment. Furthermore, the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 specifically addresses bail applications and targets repeat offenders by allowing for consecutive sentences where deemed to be appropriate.
I know that the Deputy will be aware that, within parameters set by the Oireachtas, sentences imposed in any given case are a matter for the courts and that judges are at all times independent in their decisions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. A matter that is fundamental in the law is that a court is required to impose a sentence which is proportionate, not only to the crime but also to the individual offender in identifying where in the sentencing range the particular case should lie and then applying any mitigating factor which may fall for consideration. The vulnerability of a victim, including vulnerability by reason of age, may be regarded by the court as an aggravating circumstance.
It is welcome that the Court of Appeal has set down sentencing guidelines for burglary and robbery. In this jurisprudence the court has stated that if a considerable number of aggravating factors are present, it raises the offence to the highest category which merits a sentence of between nine and 14 years, before mitigating factors are taken into account.
I advise the House that the Judicial Council Bill 2017 which has recently been passed by the Seanad and which I expect to bring into the House next week will address the matter of sentencing guidelines more generally. I welcome the initiative of Deputy Ó Laoghaire in that regard.