Sentencing policy and victims of crime

 

Sir, – It is important to note with regard to mandatory minimum sentences, that sentencing serves three purposes – to punish the offender, to send a message to society and to show victims and their families that justice has been served. Unfortunately the third purpose is often forgotten (“Irish Times view on mandatory minimum sentences: Still a bad idea”, Editorial, February February 18th).

Viewing mandatory minimum sentences purely through the lens of serving as a deterrent is far too narrow. AdVIC (advocates for victims of homicide) is actively campaigning for changes to the mandatory life sentence for murder, so that judges would have discretion to lay down a minimum term that the offender must serve. The common response we hear in relation to life sentences is that life means life, but in reality up until very recently someone convicted for murder would be eligible for parole after seven years. While it is highly unlikely that an offender would be given parole after such a short sentence, there is an impact on the victim’s family as they are retraumatised at the thought that their loved one’s killer could be released and by the parole process.

That is why we have campaigned for support for Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell’s Bill – Criminal Justice (Judicial Discretion) (Amendment) Bill 2019 – which is a short amendment to existing legislation that would give judges discretion as to whether they wish to recommend a minimum sentence for those convicted of the crime of murder in Ireland, with minimum tariffs of 25, 30 and 40 years. Families are simply asking for clarity on how long the offender will serve and to get a sense that justice has been served.

Considering the thousands of lives destroyed by the drug trade, mandatory minimum sentences would offer some solace to the victims and their families.

It is important that the victim’s perspective is not forgotten in this process. – Yours, etc,

JOAN DEANE,

Vice-chairwoman,

AdVIC – advocates

for victims of homicide,

Dublin 2.