Irish Penal Reform Trust

Sentencing

A strategic goal of IPRT is to promote reform of Irish sentencing practice and help ensure greater transparency around the principles and purposes of sentencing.  

We aim to promote the principle that detention should only be used as a last resort while remaining committed to supporting the principles of proportionality and judicial independence in sentencing.  

IPRT believes that imprisonment itself causes serious social harms, and therefore should only be used sparingly at the point of sentencing when non-custodial alternatives are not available or are deemed inappropriate. 

IPRT does not support any type of sentencing that either removes or severely limits the discretion of the judge to decide what sentence should apply, given all the circumstances of the case.  

One example of this approach is mandatory sentencing, where there is no discretion left to the judge. It means that for certain offences, the judge must impose a particular sentence (a particular term of imprisonment). There is no other option regarding sentencing available to the court.  

Another example is called ‘presumptive minimum’ sentencing; this type of sentence means that a judge must apply a specific minimum penalty, unless exceptional circumstances exist that would make it unfair or unjust to do so. However, such circumstances can often only be considered for the first offence, as for second or other offences, the minimum sentence must then be imposed regardless. This type of sentencing is often used with serious offences, such as certain drug offences, firearms offences, and murder (murder carries a mandatory life sentence). IPRT opposes this type of sentencing on the basis that such sentences are ineffective in preventing or responding to crime.  

In the Criminal Justice Policy: Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024, the Department of Justice outlined actions that will significantly impact sentencing in Ireland, such as proposals to incorporate the principle of ‘prison as a last resort’ in statute and to develop and expand the range of community sanctions as alternatives to imprisonment. IPRT will continue to advocate for the Government to meet these commitments.  

Irish Legal News: Foreign nationals less likely to be granted bail by Irish judges

7th May 2024

IPRT comments on the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) research report into the use of pre-trial detention and the denial of bail in Ireland.

Irish Examiner: ‘Dramatic’ increase in number of people detained in custody before trial

7th May 2024

IPRT commented on the new report research report published by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) that examines the use of pre-trial detention and the denial of bail in Ireland.

Round-up: Prison Law Seminar: Sentencing - Alternatives to Imprisonment

28th February 2024

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)  held our most recent Prison Law Seminar on the topic of  Sentencing: Alternatives to Imprisonment . At a time when overcrowding in prisons is continuously breaking...

Ireland’s sentencing system

28th February 2024

Ireland’s sentencing system

IPRT Resources on Sentencing

28th February 2024

IPRT Resources on Sentencing

Explainer: Dismissal

27th February 2024

Explainer: Dismissal

Explainer: Fines

27th February 2024

Explainer: Fines

Explainer: Life sentences

27th February 2024

Explainer: Life sentence

Explainer: Suspended sentences

27th February 2024

Explainer: Suspended sentences

Explainer: Community Service Orders

27th February 2024

Explainer: Community Service Orders

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