YESTERDAY’S High Court decision to declare the practice of allowing courts to activate suspended sentences is illegal will have a serious and possibly a limiting impact on the criminal justice system.
It creates an unwelcome lacuna that requires an immediate response, one that ensures that the courts’ options are not constrained. That response must ensure that those convicted of wrongdoing but given the latitude of a suspended sentence are still answerable to the courts.
Unfortunately, this ruling will feed the impression that the law is stacked in favour of criminals even if that perception has been strongly and persistently challenged by social workers and those working on behalf of the demographic so very overrepresented in prosecutions taken by the State.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty declared the relevant clauses unconstitutional because they allow for significantly different treatment of persons before the law as far as their rights of appeal are concerned. There have been regular challenges to the operation of section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, as amended under acts of 2007 and 2009. This shows that lay and professional persons involved in the criminal law arena “simply do not know at present where they stand”, he said.
This ruling must add to the pressure driving the talks aimed at forming a government. It shows too that politicians who are reluctant to assume responsibility without unfettered power have got their priorities so very wrong.
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