Government to consider sentencing guidelines, particularly for sex crimes

Case raised of ‘Irish Times’ letter writer angered by sentence reduction for her rapist

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government will consider ways to introduce sentencing guidelines particularly in relation to sexual crime.

He said in the Dáil that a judicial council might be the right body to draw up sentencing guidelines through the Judicial Appointments Bill.

Mr Varadkar pointed out that the Domestic Violence Bill, currently going through the Oireachtas, provided that where the victim of a sexual assault was in an intimate relationship with the offender, “that will be treated as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes”.

Mr Varadkar made his comments after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the case of a woman who wrote to The Irish Times about the reduction by two years in the sentence of her former partner who raped her.


The Sinn Féin president said she had previously raised the issue of inconsistency in sentencing, particularly in sexual crime, and said the case was by no means isolated.

She pointed to the letter writer’s “deep anger and distress” that the sentence of the perpetrator of her rape was reduced in February by two years from 10.

Ms McDonald said the victim “believes that the judges did not take seriously enough the gravity of the offence”.

Threatened with a knife

She quoted from the woman’s letter published in the newspaper on Monday. “I was threatened with a knife. I was threatened with being raped a second time until I promised to stay in the relationship. For the remainder of the night I was threatened with being killed unless I promised that I would stay.”

The Taoiseach said “rape is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed on any individual”, and is particularly egregious when perpetrated by a family member, particularly when the victim is a child.

He said judges sit through entire cases for days and hear all the evidence, including mitigating factors. Stressing he was speaking in general and not about any particular case, Mr Varadkar said it was not correct to “second-guess their decisions”.

However, he said nobody agreed with inconsistency in sentencing, and urged TDs to co-operate to pass the Domestic Violence Bill next month, which would treat sexual violence as an aggravating factor in intimate relationships.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times