Tuesday 27 September 2016

Suspended sentence impasse affects four new cases

Tim Healy

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

Of the four cases which came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan yesterday, three were adjourned until tomorrow pending the making by Mr Justice Moriarty of final orders arising from his judgment. Stock Image
Of the four cases which came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan yesterday, three were adjourned until tomorrow pending the making by Mr Justice Moriarty of final orders arising from his judgment. Stock Image

The fall-out continues from a significant judgment declaring the law governing suspended sentences as unconstitutional.

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Four cases affected by the decision came before the High Court yesterday.

Last week Mr Justice Michael Moriarty's judgment declared key provisions of Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, as amended, are unconstitutional.

Acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said emergency legislation is being prepared and will be discussed with her Cabinet colleagues this week.

However it is still unclear when emergency legislation might be passed, with no formal Government in place.

Meanwhile, a number of people have avoided having suspended sentences imposed or have made applications to be released from jail over the past week.

Of the four cases which came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan yesterday, three were adjourned until tomorrow pending the making by Mr Justice Moriarty of final orders arising from his judgment.

One of them involved a prisoner who is challenging activation of a six-year suspended term imposed on him after being convicted of charges including burglary and attempted robbery.

The suspended term was activated after he pleaded guilty to other charges. As he has an outstanding appeal against his earlier conviction, the suspended term should not have been activated, said his counsel Micheál P O'Higgins SC.

A second adjourned case involved a prisoner who argued Judge Moriarty's decision meant a District Court judge had no power to activate a four-month suspended sentence, imposed in January 2015. He was convicted in January 2016 of another offence for which he received a 10-month term, to run consecutively with the four-month term.

The issue in that case is whether the 10-month sentence is affected by Mr Justice Moriarty's decision.

In the third adjourned case, it was argued an 11-month term being served by the prisoner as a result of revocation of a suspended sentence is unlawful. The 11-month term arises from a sentence of two years for drug offences, of which 11 months was suspended.

The fourth case concerned a man with several convictions for offences including under the Road Traffic Acts and for theft. On the application of the DPP, it was struck out by the judge on grounds it was "moot" in light of the Moriarty decision.

Irish Independent

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