The Irish Criminal Justice System is sadly in need of repair. Do you agree? Please refer to the court system and current sentencing practices in your answer: LAW Assignment Ireland

The Irish Criminal Justice System is sadly in need of repair. Do you agree? Please refer to the court system and current sentencing practices in your answer.


it is highly debated that the Irish Criminal Justice System is in need of repair, the law sets down the rules and the guilty should face the wrath of such for justice to prevail and to protect the innocent victims. It is a fundamental tenet of justice in modern democratic societies that all persons are to be treated fairly, with equal respect, and not be subject to any form of adverse discrimination, whether direct or indirect (Shute et al., 2005).

Avril Margaret Brandon and Michael O’Connell Can it be classed discrimination if two offenders appear before the court for the same crime however one gets a suspended sentence and the person beside them gets a custodial and furthermore is that a discrimination against the defendant and or the victim. In certain circumstances, different judges can legitimately adopt different sentencing approaches when sentencing the same case. In other words, they can treat like cases differently and can justify their decisions according to Irish sentencing law.

Should justice be at the core of transforming our criminal justice system versus economics?  Is it the government controlling the power of the judges in handing down the appropriate sentences due to the cost of housing that offender and the pressure that will be put on the purse strings of the sitting government?  There are 3,980 people in prison custody in Ireland (1 April 2022). The rate of imprisonment in Ireland is approximately 78 per 100,000 of the general population (end of March 2022). In 2020, the average cost of an “available, staffed prison space” was €80,44.

When considering the balance of justice for example, if you are found guilty of possession of drugs with a value greater than €13,000 you will get a minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. This is provided for under Section 15A of Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2007. In comparison for example, if you were to be found guilty of violent disorder under Section 15 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, the maximum sentence you can receive is 10 years imprisonment.

Is it the belief that possession of drugs warrants the same penalty as putting another person’s personal safety at risk?

Since the foundation of the State in 1922 few attempts have been made to change or challenge the nature of the Irish sentencing system. This lack of reform, however, does not necessarily reflect widespread satisfaction with the system as a whole. Indeed, a recurrent criticism of the Irish sentencing system is that judicial sentencing practices are widely inconsistent.

At the beginning of 2011, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter T.D, announced that amendments to the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983, encouraging the greater use of community service as an alternative to imprisonment, would be introduced in Ireland.

A CSO is a direct alternative to a prison sentence and according to the original Act must only be imposed if a custodial sentence has first been considered. The amendments sought to strengthen the original legislation by encouraging the greater use of community service for those who would otherwise have received a custodial sentence of less than one year.

If the cost of housing a prisoner is driving the sentencing, is community service, restorative justice or hard labour the way forward?  There is a small element of restorative justice in Ireland despite it being widely available in Norway, Finland and New Zealand.  In Northern Ireland it is commonly used for the youth in their communities.

We have “Concurrent sentences” which have been judicially defined as “two or more terms of imprisonment, all or part of each term of which is served simultaneously.

Does this make the victim question their self worth in the sense of which crime committed against them did not count? Some judges when handing down concurrent sentences versus consecutive believe that the final term would be unfair on the convicted person.  Does this serve the victim or serve the convicted?

The “Suspended sentence” is used quite liberally but its function may be more closely related to the aim of deterrence rather than avoiding the use of the custodial sentence. Thus the aim of decarceration may not be optimal in practice when either sanction is utilised. The decarcerative effect of either sanction is largely dependent upon the specific purpose which judges invest in the sanction. Judges may also be inhibited in the use of either sanction if they lack confidence that the sentence will be appropriately monitored and executed.

Should the Suspended sentence be revised to only apply to first time offenders offering a “take the right path now” option for the convicted? Does the Suspended sentence give the offender an “open house” attitude where they view this sentence the same as a slap on the wrist encouraging reoffending ?

The vast majority of short sentences are imposed by the District Court. Precisely how many offenders actually go to prison as a result of District Court decisions is rather difficult to estimate, because all those sentenced to imprisonment by that court have an automatic right of the appeal to the Circuit Court and are entitled to a stay on the on the order pending appeal.

Under the Probation of Offenders Act 1907, a judge in the District Court may decide not to convict you, even if it has been proven that you are guilty. The charge may be dismissed or you may be conditionally discharged. The judge has the option to do this this if they believe you are unlikely to reoffend.

If we were to review the case of Sharon Whelan who was raped and strangled in her home in Windgap, Co Kilkenny, by local man Brian Hennessey, who then torched the house to cover his tracks killing her daughters Zarah (7) and Nadia (2). Hennessey was given consecutive life sentences in 2009 after admitting the three murders but this was softened on appeal to concurrent sentences. Sharons brother John has been campaigning for a change in sentencing laws, calling for minimum terms like in the UK where killers have to serve a minimum of 25 years before applying for parole.  Is justice being served here for the victims of the crime?

In conclusion, this essay set out to question if the Irish Criminal Justice system was sadly in need of repair and whether I as the author of the piece agreed. “The Government through their Justice Plan are committed to introducing reforms to improve access to justice, which is a fundamental right.

The changes we are introducing to the justice and courts systems will ensure that the expectations of a modern society and economy can be met.”   Reform is needed I believe to empower the judiciary to impose the appropriate penalty for the relevant crime.

Restorative sentences benefit the victim along with the perpetrator, through the possible meeting they will have with their victim, giving the victim a safe forum to challenge their attacker/offender but also makes the offender understand the impact of their action and in some format bring closure to the events.  Suspended sentences can be abused so they are a facility that needs to be further regulated whereby if you have already received a suspended sentence and you do commit another crime whether it be the same type or different you must receive a restorative sentence and after this a custodial sentence.

Concurrent sentences should be abolished and replaced with consecutive, if the offender has premeditation to commit a crime and a number of crimes against one person or a number of people they must understand the consequences of the same, which in itself will act as a deterrent to other offenders.

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