The setting of minimum tariffs on life sentences before a prisoner can apply for parole will ensure the punishment served fits the crime and send a zero tolerance message to others, according to Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell.
Deputy Farrell, a member of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, spoke as Cabinet approved the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024 aimed at creating a safer and fairer society.
Deputy Farrell said: “A priority identified in today’s plan includes introducing judicial discretion to set minimum tariffs for life sentences in very heinous cases.
“A prisoner serving a life sentence can apply for parole after 12 years under current arrangements.
“This reform will give victims and the public at large more confidence that, in the most heinous murder cases, judges will have the discretion to set a minimum sentence.
“Under the proposal, judges would have to take into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances. In practice, it could mean that a judge could decide to impose a life sentence and stipulate that a minimum of 20, 25, or 30 years must be served.
“This is based on a recommendation from the Law Reform Commission’s 2013 report on Mandatory Sentences and comes after the introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee of the Judicial Council and the independent Parole Board established last year.
“This approach will ensure that the punishment fits the crime and those convicted of murder are dealt with in the most appropriate way, taking their victims and families into account and acknowledging the ongoing suffering endured by the victims’ loved ones.
“Fine Gael’s mission is to build stronger, safer communities by ensuring we have a fit for purpose penal code and a well-resourced policing service aimed at preventing crime.”