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Money for victims skews sex attack jail terms – judge

THE practice of sex offenders offering money to their victims to mitigate their sentences is yielding inconsistent results in sexual assault cases, a senior judge has warned.

The absence of lawyers citing previous sentences handed down by the courts is also causing problems in child pornography cases.

Last night High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he was concerned about the "money" factor following an analysis by the Judicial Researchers Office (JRO) of sentences handed down for sexual assaults. A 1993 law allows compensation to be considered in mitigation of sentence.

In delivering a research paper on sentences he has co-authored with judicial researcher Lisa Scott, Judge Charleton said financial compensation has had a "definite tendency" to yield inconsistent results in sexual assault sentencing.

"If money can be raised by the accused, the legislation says that it can be a mitigating factor. But if it cannot be raised because the accused and his family are poor, where reasonably does justice stand?"

Judge Charleton was speaking at the Martin Tansey memorial lecture organised by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development.

Judge Charleton said a review of rape sentences showed that lenient sentences were "very rare indeed".

The JRO research shows that almost one in four rapists have received sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment, while some 42pc of rapists have received sentences of between nine and 14 years.

Meanwhile, judges are frustrated that their new pay and conditions have been imposed without any negotiation, according to one of the country's most senior judges.

In a keynote speech ahead of government plans to overhaul the legal profession, Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Frank Clarke has said that while it is reasonable for the Government and Oireachtas to have a voice in setting judges terms and conditions, the judiciary are also entitled to "put forward their case".

Irish Independent