Thursday 22 March 2018

At least 15 suspended sentence challenges to come before court

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin

Tim Healy

At least 15 case are due before the High Court tomorrow over the striking down of the law on suspended sentences.

It follows the making of formal declarations Wednesday by the judge who made the decision.

On Wednesday,  arising from his judgment delivered in cases by six other prisoners last month, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty formally declared Section 99.9 and 99.10 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, as amended, are unconstitutional.

They govern the courts' powers to activate suspended sentences.  It means suspended sentences cannot be revoked or enforced under Section99 if the person affected is convicted in another court of a second offence.

It is understood emergency laws to deal with the consequences of the court's declarations are in the final stages of drafting and may be ready to be put before the Oireachtas within two weeks.

As well as the six prisoners who brought the actions challenging the constitutionality of the provisions, at least another 16 cases have been initiated as a result of Judge Moriarty's findings.

Legal sources believe, now the final orders have been made, further cases will be initiated but there is no indication exactly how many prisoners may be affected.

Having heard arguments on behalf of the prisoners and Attorney General on Wednesday, the judge refused the Attorney's application to stop short of actually striking down the relevant subsections.

While accepting the provisions were unconstitutional, it was argued on behalf of the Attorney the matter could be addressed via particular revocation arrangements in the six individual cases with which the judgment was concerned.

Mr Justice Moriarty said he had considerable reservations about the "appropriateness and fairness" of such a course.

Given the sheer incidence of cases that had led to the constitutional challenges by these six prisoners, the judge was satisfied the appropriate thing to do was to make a declaration the two subsections are unconstitutional.

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