Mary Lou McDonald TD raises need for sentencing guidelines with Taoiseach

Speaking at Leaders Questions this afternoon, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD raised with the Taoiseach what she described as “significant issues relating to inconsistency, leniency, and light sentences, particularly relating to sexual crimes”.

Ms McDonald referred to a letter written by a victim of Marital Rape, and published in Monday’s Irish Times, in which the author expressed her anger with the two year reduction in the sentence of the perpetrator.

The Sinn Féin Leader called on Mr Varadkar to consider adopting the Sentencing Council Model and the need for the drafting of sentencing guidelines.

Teachta McDonald said;

“The letter was shocking and the author wrote bravely and with dignity.

“Her words reflected the trauma of being sexually assaulted and the additional horror when the perpetrator is your intimate partner.

“She feels abandoned and let down by the judicial system.

“There are significant issues relating to inconsistency, leniency, and light sentences, particularly relating to sexual crimes. This underlines the need for sentencing guidelines.

“I understand that the Judicial Council Bill contains reference to a Sentencing Information Committee. However, it does not recommend the drafting of guidelines, and as such will be far too weak and will not have the desired effect.

“This sends a very dangerous message to victims generally but particularly to victims of sexual violence and to wider society. The case in the Irish Times is not a unique or isolated case, Taoiseach.

“There are many others I have already urged this government to face up to that reality and to take appropriate action.

“I have previously commended the adoption of the Sentencing Council Model as the way forward.

“I have outlined the wide ranging merits of this model in terms of accountability, consistency, appropriateness and the involvement of stakeholders in the forming of guidelines.

“Will the government now recognise that there is a real problem and give serious consideration to the Sentencing Council model and the need for the drafting of sentencing guidelines?”