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Gangland criminals targeted: New law seeks to impose life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder

The seriousness of the crime must be reflected in the sentence our judges can impose, says the justice minister.
Sep 17th 2020, 12:01 AM 18,136 19

THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE for conspiracy to murder is to increase to life imprisonment under new government plans. 

Minister for Justice and Equality Helen McEntee has also secured Cabinet agreement to create new offences to combat international terrorism. 

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder has been set at 10 years since 1861.

Conspiracy to murder is an incomplete attempt to commit a murder, and was introduced  as part of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

It is used when two or more people form a plan to murder another person, but are stopped before they can carry it out.

McEntee said her proposals are targeted at gangland criminals. In a statement confirming her plans, she said gardaí are doing their job by arresting those intent on committing murder -  but that should not be a reason for a less severe sentence. 

In recent years, a number planned murders in the Hutch-Kinahan feud have been stopped by gardai. Convictions for conspiracy to murder have also been successfully obtained. 

In one such case, Liam Brannigan was earlier this year sentenced to eight years for conspiring to murder Dublin man Gary Hanely. 

Another high profile conspiracy to murder case was that of Clare woman Sharon Collins. Collins served three years and nine months of her six-year-sentence for the plot to kill her partner and his sons.

 

More than anything, it is the ongoing battle against gangland crime that has prompted the proposed tougher sentencing. 

“As Minister for Justice, I will be tough on gangland crime at all levels. The first piece of criminal justice legislation I am bringing forward as Minister will increase the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder from 10 years to life,” McEntee said. 

“The message must go out to the thugs who perpetrate gangland violence: We will take all necessary action to stop you, bring you to justice and prevent you from leading our young into a life of crime and violence.

“Gangland crime must not take hold in our communities, but we must also provide An Garda Síochána and our Courts with the tools they need to take firm and decisive action to deal with our most serious criminals.

“Criminals have been intercepted and prevented from murdering people thanks to the good work of An Garda Síochána.

“The fact that the Gardaí are doing their job effectively and arresting criminals who are determined to murder should not make conspiracy to murder a lesser offence. The seriousness of the crime must be reflected in the sentence our judges can impose,” she said.

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The minister said unlike murder and attempted murder, which carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment, the punishment for conspiracy to murder is capped at 10 years.

“My proposals will bring clarity to the offence and will give judges much more leeway to impose severe sentences,” she said.

“But in addition to being tough when needed”, the minister said her department must also work with communities affected by criminal activity to identify what help they require.

“Last month, I appointed Vivian Geiran, the former Director of the Probation Service, to carry out a scoping exercise to assess how best the State can help people in Drogheda [which has seen an increase in gangland crime], and the Government is committed to supporting communities and community safety right across the country,” she said.

The minister also announced that she has secured Government approval for the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2020.

An additional three new terrorist offences to the definition of “terrorist-linked activity” have been added. 

The offences are:

  • receiving training for terrorism
  • travelling for the purpose of terrorism
  • organising or facilitating travelling for the purpose of terrorism 
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