22nd February 2017
[Updated Sept 2018]
There is no evidence from Ireland or abroad that mandatory sentencing works to address any category of offending. All that it achieves is increasing the numbers of people in prison, at significant cost to the state. If community safety is at the centre of the criminal justice strategy - and it should be - then mandatory sentencing represents a poor investment, one that is not based on sound evidence of effectiveness.
This is underscored by comprehensive reviews by the Law Reform Commission (2013, Rec. 6.06), which recommended that existing mandatory and presumptive sentencing schemes for drugs and firearms related offences should be repealed, and the Strategic Review of Penal Policy (Sept 2014, Rec. 34) which recommended a review of existing mandatory sentencing schemes "with a view to determining if this type of sentencing satisfies the need for proportionality in sentencing and fulfils the objective of reducing crime." A review of the principle behind use of presumptive minimum sentences was due to be submitted to the Minister for Justice & Equality in Q3 2018 (Sixth Report of the Implementation Oversight Group, July 2018, Rec. 34).
Both the Law Reform Commission report and the Strategic Review of Penal Policy recommended that no new mandatory sentences or presumptive minimum sentences should be introduced. Further, the Law Reform Commission made a specific recommendation that “the use of presumptive and mandatory minimum sentencing regimes should not be extended to other forms of repeat offending.” (Rec. 6.08, p. 215)
In the IPRT Position Paper, we outline the legal framework for mandatory and presumptive sentencing in Ireland, as well as describing the advantages and disadvantages of these sentences as evidenced here and in other jurisdictions.
The Paper also outlines alternatives to mandatory or presumptive sentencing which can potentially address the concerns expressed by both the advocates for and against such policy.
To download the document, please click here.
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.