Criminals to seek release after law is struck down
■ Crisis in justice but no government leaves emergency legislation in doubt
Convicted criminals are set to challenge their jail terms after the courts struck down the law enforcing suspended sentences.
The justice system is facing a fresh crisis that is likely to see a raft of test cases before judges in the coming days.
It is the result of a High Court ruling by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, that a section of law which allows for the instant activation of suspended sentences where a criminal is found guilty of a new offence is unconstitutional. The ruling is the first major legislative crisis to emerge since the election more than seven weeks ago - but with no government in place, it is unclear how quickly it can be resolved.
Acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who spent yesterday at talks about the formation of a new government, was last night facing calls to introduce emergency legislation to stave off the crisis.
The minister's office could not confirm whether she would break away from negotiations to focus on the situation, but said "the consequences and implications" of the ruling were being "examined in consultation with the Attorney General".
A senior criminal lawyer told the Irish Independent: "After this ruling, any decent lawyer will be down the courts seeking to test whether they can have their clients freed if they were dealt with under Section 99."