Advocates for the Victims of Homicide (“AdVIC”), is delighted to announce that through its Patron, Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell, the Criminal Justice (Judicial Discretion) (Amendment) Bill 2019 will likely be introduced to the Seanad next month. AdVIC expects that the Bill will receive cross-party support in both the Upper and Lower Houses following recent day release debacles for those serving mandatory life sentences for murder.

The Bill proposes a subtle, yet highly effective amendment to existing legislation. Courts will still be obliged to impose the mandatory life sentence for those convicted of murder. However, they will now be given the discretion to impose a minimum tariff that must be served before parole may be considered. This short amendment will create a change in how we express our societal distaste for our most heinous of crime. It will also mirror that practiced in other common-law jurisdictions, such as England & Wales and separately, Scotland.

The Bill, if passed into law, will create significant changes for society and families alike. Firstly, Judges would (at their discretion) be able to reflect what they believe to be society’s horror at any particular murder by imposing a base tariff to serve in prison – a tariff which they believe reflects society’s minimum level of disapproval for such a crime. Currently, no such certainty exists, and murderers may (technically) be released after a seven year period has elapsed. [Note however under this Bill, the the court retains the discretion to continue to simply pass the mandatory life sentence – without imposing any such minimum term of imprisonment.].

Secondly, the recent farce of murders being let out on day release will no longer be possible if a minimum tariff is imposed – during that period.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the scandal of families having to plead and give good cause as to why the murderer of a member of their family should not be released will end, where such a minimum tariff is imposed for at least the duration of that tariff. The victim’s family should not be obliged beg to keep such murderers in prison – this is the legislature’s responsibility and their continued treatment of families in such circumstances, simply beggars belief.

AdVIC calls on everyone in Irish society whom believe not just in justice for offenders but now also victims and their families, to lobby their parliamentary representatives to support Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell’s Bill on its journey through the Oireachtas.

For further information contact John O’Keeffe, Director (Non-Exec) AdVIC on