That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to increase the sentence for persons convicted of conspiring or soliciting to commit murder.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which deals with the offence of conspiracy. Specifically the Bill proposes to increase the maximum sentence for somebody convicted of conspiracy to murder. At present that penalty is provided for in section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The maximum sentence that can be imposed on a person found guilty of conspiracy to murder, where the person obviously has not been murdered, is a sentence of ten years. The Bill proposes to amend that provision so that a court could impose a sentence of up to life imprisonment for someone found guilty of the serious crime of conspiracy to murder.
This legislation arises from a case last year where an Estonian man was convicted by the Special Criminal Court. He had arrived from Estonia for the purpose of carrying out a murder for which he was hired by an Irish criminal gang. Through the good work of An Garda Síochána he was apprehended. The Garda was able to identify that there were text messages identifying the person whom he was asked to kill and his reply indicating that he proposed to kill the person with "one shot to the head". It was a very well-organised criminal operation.
Fortunately, An Garda Síochána apprehended the individual and he was charged with the offence of conspiracy to murder. Sensibly, he made the decision to plead guilty. As a result, when he came before the Special Criminal Court, it was essential that the court gave him some recognition for his having pleaded guilty at a very early stage. The court noted that the maximum sentence was ten years' imprisonment. Taking into account his guilty plea, the appropriate sentence given to him was one of six years. The effect of that is that somebody who has been found guilty of conspiracy to murder, a very serious offence, will find themselves out of prison in approximately four years.
The legislation proposes to amend section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. It is anomalous that somebody found guilty of such a serious offence will only be exposed to sentence of up to ten years. The Bill seeks to increase that sentence to one of up to life imprisonment.