FF move for 10 year drugs terms defeat


A FIANNA Fail proposal to impose a mandatory 10 year sentence for drug trafficking offences was defeated.

On the report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill, which obliges financial institutions to report suspected incidents of money laundering by drug traffickers, the Fianna Fail spokesman on justice, Mr John O'Donoghue, said drug offences should attract a statutory minimum sentence. There was a mandatory life sentence for murder. The House was entitled to express its abhorrence of drug trafficking by requiring a similar penalty for it.

Mr Eric Byrne (DL, Dublin South Central) said there was a lot of "woolly thinking" by the judiciary in regard to drug offences. A drug trafficker was recently sentenced to a short period to be followed by a period in the Coolmine treatment centre.

Mr Tony Gregory (Ind, Dublin Central) said some drug dealers believed themselves to be "above the law". There were cases where heroin dealers, who wreaked havoc on the lives of many people, were given sentences of just two to three years. There was an onus on them to show that the issue had to be taken seriously.

Ms Liz O'Donnell, Progressive Democrats spokeswoman on justice, supporting the amendment, said most sentences for drug offences were lenient. The State had to demonstrate that long sentences would be imposed.

Mr Michael McDowell (PD, Dublin South East) said he disagreed with the Law Reform Commission which had argued against mandatory sentences. The State was entitled to show its disapproval of a particular type of offence by directing the judiciary to impose a minimum sentence.

The Minister for Justice, Mrs Owen, said she could not give directions to judges. The law was there and it was up to judges to implement it.

The amendment was defeated by 64 votes to 57.

The Bill was passed.