Written answers

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Sentencing Policy

8:00 pm

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Question 256: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has plans to allow the courts to only use prison as a last resort for crimes incurring minor sentences. [35460/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy may be aware, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 provides that a court may make a Community Service Order as an alternative to a sentence of imprisonment in respect of a person over the age of 16 years who has been convicted of a criminal offence and who consents to the Order being made. The Community Service Order requires an offender to perform unpaid work for between 40 and 240 hours, usually to be completed within 12 months.

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 allows the court to suspend any portion of a sentence or the full sentence, on condition that the offender complies with Probation supervision and any other specific conditions which are intended to reduce the likelihood of re-offending. The courts frequently seek pre-sentence assessment reports from the Probation Service to inform them of the suitability of the defendant for such an order and the conditions that might usefully be attached to supervision rather than imprisonment.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to the most recently published Discussion Document of the White Paper on Crime series entitled Criminal Sanctions,which included an examination of the use of non-custodial sanctions generally. Submissions on this document were invited and in August 2010 my Department published reports of both the submissions received and of a consultation seminar held in Dublin Castle on 28th May 2010. The opinions received will feed into the development of future policy in this area.

In addition, as the Deputy will be aware, the Fines Act 2010 was signed into law on 31 May last which, inter alia, provides for alternatives to imprisonment in the event of non-payment of a fine. In such circumstances, a recovery order can be activated and a receiver will be entitled to recover the fine or to seize and sell property from the person and recover the fine from the proceeds. A community service order is also an option. Imprisonment in the event of default will be a last resort.

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