Changes to laws on sentencing of children may be ‘brought forward’ after Tserendorj adjournment

Mr Justice Tony Hunt described as a ‘yawning gap’ in legislation which caused him to adjourn the sentencing a 17-year-old boy convicted of the 2021 murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj

Minister for Justice Simon Harris has promised any necessary changes to laws governing the sentencing of children for serious crimes will be brought forward.

The issue has emerged following what Mr Justice Tony Hunt described as a “yawning gap” in legislation which caused him to adjourn the sentencing a 17-year-old boy convicted of the 2021 murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj.

The 48-year-old Mongolian national was stabbed as she was walking through the Irish Financial Services Centre in Dublin 1 while making her way home from work.

The sentencing was adjourned after the judge said it is time for legislative intervention or a definitive ruling on the law covering the sentencing of children convicted of serious offences.


Mr Justice Hunt said the Children Act, 2001 does not fulfil the role of a coherent and comprehensive framework in that it fails to deal with young offenders such as the accused in this case. He identified what he called a “yawning gap” in the legislation which he said “cries out for reform”. He said this “should be attended to because it is merited on its own terms and, if not, it will thrust litigation upon the State”.

A spokesman for Mr Harris expressed his condolences and said he is “aware of the delay in sentencing in this case and appreciates the distress to the family caused by any delays”.

He said that Mr Harris and the Department of Justice are “examining the issue carefully and if changes are necessary to ensure the courts have a robust and effective framework to sentence children in in such cases, they will be brought forward.”

The spokesman added that Government approval has already been provided for the drafting of outline legislation to provide for amendments to the Children Act 2001 “to ensure that there are sufficient alternative sentencing options to fully and partly suspended sentences and this legislation is being prepared”.

Mr Justice Hunt has said his preference was to impose a sentence of detention for life on the defendant with a review after 13 years. However, he said there are concerns regarding what can and cannot be done by judges when a person sentenced as a juvenile comes before them for review.

There is no provision for suspended sentences, he said, and no way for the court to impose conditions on the defendant if he is released following a sentence review.

“That is a very unsatisfactory position for any review to be ordered in 13 years if that is the position then. It is one that is unfair to [the defendant] and to society.”

Michael O’Higgins SC, for the defendant, asked the court to adjourn sentencing to await a response from the Oireachtas. However, he also pointed out that there is urgency in the case as his client is approaching his 18th birthday, after which he would be treated as an adult. The mandatory sentence for murder for an adult is life imprisonment.

The accused, who was 14 at the time of the offence and cannot be named because he is a minor, had denied the murder of Ms Tserendorj but had pleaded guilty to her manslaughter on January 29th, 2021. He was found guilty of her murder by a jury last year.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times