Sunday 25 September 2016

High Court ruling on suspended sentences to be appealed by State

Published 17/06/2016 | 02:30

The State has launched an appeal against the High Court ruling which struck down the law governing the activation of suspended sentences
The State has launched an appeal against the High Court ruling which struck down the law governing the activation of suspended sentences

The State has launched an appeal against the High Court ruling which struck down the law governing the activation of suspended sentences.

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The decision by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty last April to find aspects of the law unconstitutional has caused a major headache for authorities.

Since then the courts have not been activating suspended sentences, while over a dozen prisoners have issued legal proceedings seeking to be released.

Amid fears of a crisis, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald promised emergency legislation. However, the Court of Appeal was told yesterday that the Director of Public Prosecutions was appealing the judgment.

The appeal will seek to overturn conclusions reached by Mr Justice Moriarty in test cases taken by six prisoners against the constitutionality of parts of Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Seán Ryan, said the issue was "a matter of priority" and fixed a directions hearing for next week.

Criticised

Barrister Feichin McDonagh SC, who represents four of the six prisoners, said he believed the appeal could be dealt with in a single day. He observed that the Supreme Court had already criticised the struck down section of the law.

Despite the fact an appeal has been lodged, justice officials say new legislation is still being prepared.

Under Section 99, someone found guilty of reoffending while serving a suspended term could be swiftly committed to prison to serve out the suspended portion of their initial sentence.

Mr Justice Moriarty found the law was unfair as it denied people the right to challenge their second conviction before being committed to prison in relation to their first.

At least two prisoners who had been due to have suspended sentences activated had to be set free. The DPP has informed State counsel not to seek activation orders until the issue is resolved.

Earlier this week five prisoners seeking to be released had their cases adjourned to various dates in the coming months.

However, several more abandoned their bids to be set free.

These included Alan Hutch (33), son of Eddie Hutch Snr, who was gunned down in a gangland feud earlier this year.

His lawyers told the High Court he was withdrawing his application.

Irish Independent

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