Sunday 17 December 2017

First prisoner freed after suspended sentence 'unconstitutional' - court rules

The High Court
The High Court

A prisoner has been freed by the High Court, on consent of the State, following a High Court declaration that the law allowing for revocation of suspended sentences is unconstitutional.

Two  other cases are due before the High Court today.

Two cases were initiated earlier this week and the third application was mentioned by Micheal P. O’Higgins SC to Mr Justice Seamus Noonan this morning. It also may be heard later today.

When one of the listed cases was called this morning, Mr Justice Noonan was asked by Gráinne O’Neill BL, for the State, to let it stand.

The judge agreed and was later told by Conor Power Sc, with Ms O’Neill, for the State and Governor of Cloverhill Prisoner, they were not standing over the detention. In those circumstances, the judge ordered the release of the prisoner.

The prisoner had received a three year sentence in January 2014, with the last 12 months suspended, on a charge of theft.

He was freed after serving the two year term but was remanded in custody earlier this month, for the purposes of activating the suspended 12 months, after he pleaded guilty to a different offence under the Domestic Violence Act.

Arising from the striking down of the revocation power, he claimed he was unlawfully in custody and the proposed revocation of the suspended part of his earlier sentence cannot proceed.

The second case is due to open later today before Mr Justice Paul McDermott.

The three challenges to the legality of detention arise from a judgment by  Mr Justice Michael Moriarty last Tuesday in which he declared unconstitutional two subsections of Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, as amended. Those subsections govern the courts’ powers to revoke suspended sentences.

The judgment, given in six cases raising similar challenges to Section 99.9 and Section 99.10, has very significant implications for the daily operation of the criminal justice system. ends

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