4. Criminal Law and Procedure

4.1 Suspended Sentences

In 2015, the Commission began work on its project on Suspended Sentences (4th Programme of Law Reform, Project 5). This project examines the principles that courts apply when deciding whether to impose a suspended sentence. Some aspects of the suspended sentence are dealt with in section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (as amended). The project builds on the Commission’s previous work in this area, including its analysis of the principles of sentencing contained in its 2013 Report on Mandatory Sentences (LRC 108-2013). The project also complements the work of the Irish Sentencing Information System (ISIS), which is involved (under the auspices of the Board of the Courts Service) in gathering, analysing and disseminating information on sentencing in the State.  The Commission published an Issues Paper on this subject in 2017.  The Issues Paper sought views on a range of issues concerning both the principles that apply to imposing suspended sentences and also the procedures that apply to them.  Specifically, it sought views as to whether the general sentencing principles discussed in the Paper are being applied appropriately in the case of suspended sentences, and whether this area would benefit from the development of further sentencing guidance.  The Commission’s Paper also surveyed the use of suspended sentences concerning corporate offences, namely convictions under competition law and under safety and health law. The Commission's research indicates that all sentences of imprisonment in those cases have been suspended and that no person has been imprisoned to date. Again, the Commission noted that it was seeking the views of interested parties on this. On the question of the procedures for imposing the suspended sentence the Paper noted that a number of important changes have recently been enacted in the Suspended Sentences Act 2017. This was done in response to a High Court decision in 2016 that the activation process for the suspended sentence were unconstitutional. The Paper sought views as to whether further reforms are required in relation to the procedures concerning suspended sentences, including the activation process.

4.2 Review and Consolidation of the Law on Sexual Offences

In 2019, the Commission began work on a Review and Consolidation of the Law on Sexual Offences (5th Programme of Law Reform, Project 5). During the public consultation process, the Commission received a large number of submissions concerning the need to review specific aspects of sexual offences law and for the consolidation of the law.

 As to the specific aspects of the law, the project will examine:

  1.  the definition of rape;
  2. sexual history evidence;
  3. whether the doctrine of recent complaint ought to be abolished;
  4. the discretionary corroboration warning;
  5. the anonymity of accused persons in sexual assault cases;
  6. whether trials for sexual assault should be heard otherwise than in public;
  7. the high attrition rate in sexual offences cases, and whether procedural and other reforms could have an impact on this; and
  8. separate legal representation for complainants.

As to consolidation, while the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 has provided for significant reform,13 it did not involve complete consolidation of the law, and it remains the case that some sexual offences on the statute book date back to the 19th century.

Both aspects of this project will take due account of relevant work by the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to sexual offences.

Back to list of current projects