Echo Opinion: Tougher judges needed now!

A MOTION calling for the Minister for Justice to conduct a review into the sentencing for repeat impaired drivers, which was passed this week by South Dublin County Council, is expected to have little or no affect.

However well-intentioned, Councillor Mark Ward’s motion is bound to disappear into the ether.

Dublin Courts 4

These may seem like harsh words but the Irish judiciary value their independence and don’t like mandatory sentencing.

Minimum mandatory sentencing of 10 years for those caught in possession of drugs worth more than €13,000 has not been a great success.

There have been calls to remove it as it only targets the drug mules and not the drug lords. In reality, the 10-year sentence is rarely handed down.

Cllr Ward’s motion was prompted by the campaigning of a father who lost his sixteen-year-old daughter in 2006 when she was killed by a driver as she was crossing a traffic-light controlled junction in Clondalkin.

The driver, a woman, was only charged with careless driving and with leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident and uninsured and unlicenced driving.

She was not charged with dangerous driving causing death, and spent just 10 months in jail. When the young teenager was hit, the driver was travelling at 80kph and the impact was so severe that the girl was lifted out of her runners and thrown the height of the traffic lights.

Ten months spent in jail is not a fair exchange for a person’s life.

If we are to have tougher sentencing for road traffic offences, then the populace will have to be prepared for defendants from “good families” being locked up too.

Politicians will have to suspend their practice of writing letters of reference for defendants which are handed to judges before sentencing.

We may need tougher sentencing for road traffic offences in our courts but, as a society, are we prepared to accept them?

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