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Judges to be given power to set minimum sentences for murder cases

The proposal is contained in an annual Justice plan by the Government.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE MINISTER FOR Justice will examine a proposal which could enable judges to set a minimum number of years that those convicted of murder have to serve in prison.

Proposals are to be brought forward to reform the law in relation to life sentences as part of the Government’s ‘Justice Plan’ for 2022, which has been published today.

Helen McEntee said that the plans for murder sentences will give the public more confidence in the justice system. 

The justice plan also includes a national strategy on tackling domestic and sexual violence, legislation to provide for body-worn cameras for Gardaí, and the reform of Ireland’s “antiquated” licensing laws – with a general scheme on the latter to be published within weeks.

It is the second of a series of annual plans introduced by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, which contains the Government’s aims for legal and policing reforms for the year, as well as longer term aims of policies under the Justice portfolio.

Among the key aims in this year’s plan that the Department has said have begun or are already completed, is the ’Supporting a Victim’s Journey’ plan, which aims to “put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system”, and a new zero-tolerance national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

The plan also aims to prioritise the introduction of new specific criminal offences of stalking and non-fatal strangulation.

In the wake of the death of Offaly teacher Ashling Murphy in January, McEntee said that the zero-tolerance strategy would be published in March.

Plans to reform Ireland’s “antiquated” licensing laws is in progress, with a general scheme to be published within weeks; and the reform and regulation of gambling, with work ongoing on landmark legislation to introduce a Gambling Regulator.

In relation to An Garda Síochána, the plan aims to enact legislation to provide for the use of body-worn cameras by Gardaí “to help with the investigation of crime and to protect frontline gardaí”.

And new legislation on the duty of care will be brought as part of the Civil Law Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, due to be published in the coming weeks.

The Department said this “will build on the real progress made in reducing the levels of personal injuries awards through the personal injuries guidelines”.

“Work will progress to reform the courts system and increase efficiency while creating a family courts system that is less adversarial and more sensitive to the needs of families,” McEntee said.

And I also believe in a criminal justice system where the sentence matches the crime and I will bring forward proposals to reform the law in relation to life sentences.

Preparations will also be made for a “possible” Irish bid to host a European Centre for the prevention and countering of child sexual abuse, if it is proposed.

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Ukraine and migration

On migration, the plan notes that the regularisation scheme for thousands of undocumented migrants has been opened, with applications being processed by the Department.

This is a policy announcement that McEntee has been widely praised for.

On providing for Ukrainian refugees, the Department of Justice said it would ensure that the EU’s temporary protection permission is provided to everyone who is eligible to receive it on their arrival in Ireland, and that over 8,000 permissions have been provided so far.

“Minister McEntee and her Government colleagues will continue to work with their EU counterparts on any further EU-wide measures that might be needed to assist those fleeing Ukraine,” it said.

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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