Emergency laws on sentencing ‘will not be blocked’

Acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will not be opposed by Fianna Fáil when she brings emergency legislation through the Dáil to deal with last week’s suspended sentence High Court ruling.

As negotiations to form a minority Fine Gael government continue, Fianna Fáil has said it would facilitate the passing, of emergency legislation, which is needed to address a loophole.

A ruling by Judge Michael Moriarty found that the law governing the power of the courts to activate suspended sentences was unconstitutional. He said Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act was unconstitutional on grounds including the fact that it allows for different treatment of people before the law on their rights of appeal.

Fianna Fáil’s Justice spokesman Niall Collins called on Ms Fitzgerald to bring forward emergency legislation as a matter of urgency, and yesterday a spokesman said while the party has not seen the proposed new law, in principle it will not oppose it.

Ms Fitzgerald’s office said the consequences of Justice Moriarty’s judgement have been the subject of “lengthy and detailed consultation between the department and the offices of the attorney general”.

As a result of that consultation, the minister would be asking the Government to approve the emergency legislation with a view to it being enacted “as soon as possible thereafter”.

Ms Fitzgerald said any issues arising at the final order hearing next Wednesday will be taken into account.

“Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 has been under review in the department and, as part of this, legal advices had been sought as part of the examination of the section,” she said.

There has been strong criticism from the legal profession as to the chaotic state of the State’s criminal justice laws.

Leasing senior counsel Paul Anthony McDermott said the situation regarding Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 was “a mess”. Some of the country’s finest judges have read Section 99, which has 20 sub-sections, and can’t work out exactly what it is trying to do, he said.

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