Sugden hopes sentencing review will increase confidence in justice system

Justice Minister Claire Sugden
Justice Minister Claire Sugden

Justice Minister Claire Sugden hopes a major review of sentencing policy issues will increase public confidence in the justice system.

The independent MLA is re-examining the legislative framework for certain categories of crime including offences which may result in death, causing death by dangerous driving, attacks against those providing frontline healthcare workers and hate crimes.

The setting of tariffs for murder, the arrangements for unduly lenient sentences and the effectiveness of the current sentencing guidelines are also being reviewed.

She said: “I am aware of concerns that have been expressed from time to time about sentencing in some individual cases.

“While such cases represent a very small part of the everyday work of the courts, they can have a significant impact on public perception and confidence in the justice system and the sentencing process.

“That is why I have decided that a comprehensive review of sentencing policy is needed.”

There has been public backlash over apparently lenient sentences in a number of high profile cases including animal cruelty crimes.

And, in April, the family of student Enda Dolan who was knocked down and killed slammed the sentence handed to the drunk driver.

Ms Sugden added: “This is not a review about sentencing decisions.

“Sentencing in the individual case is, of course, a matter for the judiciary and the courts and it is essential that their independence is maintained.

“However, it is my responsibility to ensure the effectiveness of the legislative framework within which individual sentencing decisions are made, and, along with the Lord Chief Justice’s programme of action, to seek to ensure that there is confidence in how those decisions are reached.

“Significant steps have already been taken by the judiciary to bring increased transparency and consistency to sentencing.

“I want to see if anything more can be done to increase public confidence, something which is of fundamental importance to the objective of providing an effective and responsive criminal justice system.”

Recommendations arising out of the review will be subject to public consultation.