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Justice Plan 2022 Judges to have power to set minimum sentences for 'heinous' murder cases

Ms McEntee believes that this reform will give the public more confidence that, in the most heinous murder cases, judges will have the discretion to set a minimum sentence

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Judges will have the power to set minimum sentences for “heinous” murder cases under proposals being considered by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

Under the reforms being considered, the minimum prison term would be determined by the trial judge, who would have regard to the aggravating and mitigating factors based on the facts and evidence in the particular case.

While murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence of 20 years, the new proposal would allow judges to impose a minimum of 20, 30, or 35 years or more.

Ms McEntee believes that this reform will give the public more confidence that, in the most heinous murder cases, judges will have the discretion to set a minimum sentence.

She said that she believes “in a criminal justice system where the sentence matches the crime” and plans to “bring forward proposals to reform the law in relation to life sentences.”

Ms McEntee is currently consulting with the Attorney General and Government colleagues in bringing forward this reform and it is expected proposals will be brought to the Cabinet by autumn.

The proposals are included among 159 reforms in the Justice Plan 2022, which was published on Monday.

The Justice Plan also includes a new zero-tolerance national strategy on tackling domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence; legislation to provide for the use of body-worn cameras by Gardaí; and a scheme to reform Ireland’s “antiquated licensing laws” that will extend the opening hours of late-night venues.

Additionally, the Justice Plan 2022 includes prioritising the introduction of new specific criminal offences of stalking and non-fatal strangulation.

The plan also seeks to “break the link” between criminal gangs and children they exploit with new laws to criminalise grooming of children and increasing the sentence for conspiracy to murder.

The Department of Justice will also be giving priority to a whole-of-Government response to the displacement of Ukrainian refugees by ensuring that that temporary protection permission is provided to everyone who is eligible to receive it on their arrival in Ireland.

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