Thursday 27 October 2016

It's time to debate if a life sentence should mean life

Published 21/04/2015 | 02:30

The life sentence imposed on Graham Dwyer after his conviction for a murder that transfixed and horrified the Irish public has once again raised the question of "When does life mean life?"

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The advocacy group Advic has highlighted the fact that "the term life-sentence is misleading". This is because although a life sentence is automatic following a murder conviction, essentially the term served is at the discretion of the Justice Minister of the day, following advice from the parole board.

Advic highlights the fact that Dwyer will be technically eligible for parole in seven years' time, although the most recent data on those released after serving a 'life' sentence was that they served an average of 20 years (compared with 17 years served by those who were released in 2013).

Andy Hynes, whose daughter Siobhan was murdered in Carraroe, Go Galway in December 1998, has articulated how families of victims feel. "There is a sentence on the whole family and it is a very severe sentence."

Advic believes that minimum tariffs should be introduced for homicide offences to offer clarity to victims' families, the public and offenders.

It is certainly an idea worth discussing.

Elaine O’Hara’s sister Ann Charles and father Frank
Elaine O’Hara’s sister Ann Charles and father Frank

Irish Independent

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