Irish Law Updates

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mandatory Life Sentences, the Constitution and the ECHR

RTE is reporting that a challenge to the mandatory life sentence has been rejected:

Challenges to life sentences rejected Friday, 5 October 2007 16:20

"Two convicted murderers have lost their High Court challenge to the constitutionality of the mandatory life sentence for murder.

They are 25-year-old Peter Whelan, who was jailed for life in 2002 for the murder of Cork student Nicola Sweeney, and 30-year-old Paul Lynch, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to the murder of Donegal pensioner, William Campbell.

Each claimed the sentence breached their rights under the Constitution and under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The two men claimed the mandatory life sentence interfered with the role of the judiciary and offended the independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Consitution.

They also claimed their rights under the Convention were breached because they have no way of knowing how or when they are likely to be released.

The case could have had implications for more than 250 people serving life sentences for murder in Ireland.

But Ms Justice Mary Irvine rejected the men's claims on all grounds."

The full story is here.

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  • When will this judgment be available online? Will the effect of the judgment be restricted to murder? Has there ever been a similar challenge to other mandatory sentences like disqualifications?

    By Blogger Karl, At 9:42 AM  

  • Keep an eye on this page and hopefully the judgment will appear there over the next few weeks.
    As far as I know, disqualifications are not regarded as penalties but rather the withdrawal of a privilege (e.g. the licence to drive) and so the same arguments cannot be made.

    By Blogger Darius, At 9:48 AM  

  • This post has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger S, At 1:41 PM  

  • I think that in the case of Osmanovic v DPP there were some obiter comments on mandatory sentencing. The sentence at issue was not a mandatory sentence but the Supreme Court seemed to accept that mandatory sentencing would be permissible. The Court noted that the general conditions for sentencing could be established by legisaltion. However, the Court also noted that a point might be reached where this power could be overextended. The court gave the extreme example of all judicial discretion in the sentencing process as a whole being removed but declined to comment on the precise point at which too much discretion would be taken away.

    By Blogger S, At 1:47 PM  

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