Dublin, 10 July 2019
ICCL broadly welcomes the passing of the Judicial Council Bill yesterday. The creation of an independent Judicial Council with responsibility for judicial training and complaints brings Ireland in line with international best practice on protecting the independence of the judiciary.
We note the proposed creation of a Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee (the Committee). ICCL believes that sentencing guidelines are potentially of value in promoting transparency, proportionality, consistency and public confidence. However, we strongly urge the Government to legislate on the purpose and principles of sentencing before guidelines are produced. In particular, we call on the Government to enshrine in law the principle that imprisonment should be a measure of last resort.
The legislation requires the Committee to “collate, in such manner as it considers appropriate, information on sentences imposed by the courts”. The Committee should work with the Irish Sentencing Information System to gather comprehensive data on sentencing practice in Ireland before issuing new guidelines. We also call on the Committee to consider the work of the Law Reform Commission on structured sentencing, included in its 5th Programme of Law Reform, as approved by Government on 20 March 2019.