QUESTIONS to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Ms. Frances Fitzgerald, TD)
For WRITTEN on Tuesday, 16th December, 2014.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on legislating so that perpetrators of serious assaults would be liable for the financial consequences arising from any injuries caused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on legislating for mandatory prison terms for perpetrators of serious unprovoked assaults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
Section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 provides that a person convicted of an offence may be ordered by the court to pay compensation in respect of any personal injury or loss resulting from that offence (or any other offence that is taken into consideration by the court in determining sentence) to a victim who has suffered such injury or loss.
Whether or not the perpetrator of a serious assault is convicted of a criminal offence, a victim may be in a position bring a civil suit for damages in regard to the injury or loss concerned.
The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 provides for a number of offences including ‘assault causing harm’ and ‘causing serious harm’ for which the maximum penalties are 5 years imprisonment and life imprisonment respectively. The general approach to sentencing in Irish criminal law is one whereby the Oireachtas sets a maximum possible sentence in statute and allows the court discretion to set the precise sentence in any given case in a manner that is proportional to the seriousness of the offence having due regard to all the circumstances including the degree of harm caused to the victim.
The prescription of mandatory prison terms in legislation is an exception to this general approach. I would draw the Deputy’s attention to the Law Reform Commission 2013 Report on Mandatory Sentences, which recommends the repeal of existing presumptive mandatory minimum sentence provisions for various drugs and firearms offences. I would also note that the Report on the Strategic Review of Penal Policy which was published in September recommended that no further mandatory sentences or presumptive minimum sentences should be introduced.