Gangsters face life term on conspiracy to murder charge under new laws
Criminals found guilty of conspiring to carry out gangland murders face up to life in prison under new laws that will increase the maximum prison sentence for the crime.
Since the outbreak of the Hutch-Kinahan feud gardaí have foiled over 60 murder bids, which has led to an increase in the number of people before the courts charged with conspiracy to murder.
However, the current legislation, which dates back to 1861, fixes a 10-year jail term as the most severe punishment.
It has meant that criminals intercepted on their way to carry out gangland killings, and those directing murder plots, have gotten sentences averaging between six and eight years.
However, a new bill being drafted by Justice Minister Helen McEntee will increase the maximum sentence to life imprisonment on conviction.
Ms McEntee has secured approval from Government colleagues to draft the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, which will update the law and give judges more leeway to impose severe sentences.
"Criminals have been intercepted and prevented from murdering people thanks to the good work of An Garda Síochána," she said.
"The fact that 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."
Until recent years suspects were rarely charged with murder conspiracy.
That has now changed and it has become a major weapon to be used in the fight against gangland criminals since the eruption of the Kinahan-Hutch feud, following the Regency Hotel attack in Dublin in 2016.
Ireland's maximum sentence for the crime is at the lower end of the European scale and the British amended their legislation to increase it to life imprisonment in 1977.
The 10-year sentence, usually reduced by the courts if the accused pleads guilty, has been a source of frustration to gardaí, particularly those involved in the war on gangland crime.
Kinahan associate Luke Wilson was jailed for six years last year for conspiring to murder a rival linked to the Hutch faction, while he was given an 11-year sentence for possession of the handgun which gardaí said was to have been used in the planned shooting.
Another Kinahan hitman, Estonian Imre Arakas, also received a six-year sentence in the Special Criminal Court last year when he pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder James 'Mago' Gately.
The sentences they serve could be reduced further with remission of a quarter of the jail stretch for good behaviour behind bars.