Murderers fail in bid to abolish mandatory sentencing
Published 15/05/2010 | 05:00
TWO murderers have failed in a Supreme Court bid to have mandatory sentencing declared unconstitutional.
Peter Whelan and Paul Lynch claimed making life sentencing mandatory also breached their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Whelan was jailed for life for the murder of student Nicola Sweeney (20) in Rochestown, Cork, in 2002. Lynch is serving a life term for the 1995 murder of Donegal pensioner William Campbell (77).
Yesterday, the Supreme Court said murder is the "ultimate crime against society as a whole" and the State is entitled to impose a punishment at "the highest level which the law permits".
Chief Justice John Murray said because murder involved intending to kill, it could be "properly differentiated from all other crimes".
The sole function of a court, once a person is convicted of murder was to impose the mandatory life sentence and the relevant law did not permit a recommendation by a judge as to the length of imprisonment, he said.
He was delivering the five-judge court's unanimous judgment dismissing the claims by Whelan and Lynch in their appeal against a High Court rejection of their arguments that the mandatory life term is repugnant to the Constitution or incompatible with provisions of the ECHR.
The Chief Justice said murder deprives the victim "finally and irrevocably of the most fundamental of rights, the right to be and may also have exceptional irretrievable consequences of a devastating nature for the family of a victim".
AdVIC, the advocacy group for the families of victims of homicide, congratulated the Supreme Court in its decision.