Jail murderers for 25 years, says victims' group

Murderers should serve at least 25 years in prison, a leading victims' group claimed today.

Murderers should serve at least 25 years in prison, a leading victims' group claimed today.

As the Government was urged to widen murder laws, AdVic called for judges to be given new guidelines on sentencing and have the power to impose tough tariffs on jail terms.

The support group claimed stricter punishment combined with proposed new rules for prosecuting killers would instil confidence in the criminal justice system.

Ger Philpott, member of the victims support group AdVic, welcomed calls for change but said mandatory 25-year sentences were needed.

"AdVic have always advocated a kind of change on charges to a blanket homicide law and vary that by severity, level of violence and provocation," he said.

"Our blanket description is of homicide by degree."

The Law Reform Commission has drafted a new Homicide Bill and wants the courts to take into consideration whether a killing was planned, spur of the moment, the level of violence and recklessness or negligence.

"We would say this kind of change is acceptable but guidelines for judges would also be helpful. AdVic would recommend where human life is taken the sentence is a minimum of 25 years and judges could add on a tariff.

"Presently you have situations where sentences are handed down for similar crimes but there is no comparison [in the sentences]."

The Commission said manslaughter should be used against drivers for road deaths where there is very high culpability and new offences of careless driving causing death and assault causing death should be created.

It wants murder to be used in only the most heinous killings and repeated calls it made 10 years ago for mandatory life sentences to be replaced by jail terms based on moral culpability.

It said low levels of violence causing death such as a single blow to the head should not be manslaughter but assault causing death and also called for gross negligence to be considered.

AdVic has put forward its proposals on mandatory sentences to the Department of Justice.

Anne Delcassian, whose sister Irene White was murdered in her Dundalk home three years ago, said the justice system favours criminals.

"Our system is wrong, it's not for the victim, it's absolutely 100% not," she said.

"When I think of my beautiful sister gone, there one minute and gone the next, how does that make you feel? What I have learned in the last few years has opened my eyes."

Despite three years of intensive investigations and a number of arrests no-one has been charged in connection with the murder. Ms Delcassian said she, like many others, has dozens of unanswered questions.

"The sphere of law needs to be widened. The law protects the criminal, the system in Ireland needs to be restructured," she said.

"No matter what stage your investigation is at I think you should have the right to look at the book. The DPP is taking control of sadness and of our lives."

Ms Delcassian has written to Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan and DPP James Hamilton asking for information relating to the Garda investigation into her sister's killing. Both have declined to give any answers.

She said she would be making a submission to the DPP as part of the public consultation on reasons why some suspected criminals are not prosecuted.

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