Alliance hits out at lenient sentencing

ALLIANCE Victims Spokesperson Eileen Bell MLA has said that judges who hand out lenient minimum jail terms for murder and other serious crimes are letting the public down.

Mrs Bell, who is also Alliance Deputy Leader, stated:

“Despite what the Lord Chief Justice has said about judges operating within guidelines, there is a real need for the law to be seen to be done if the public is not to lose confidence in the justice system.

“Today, a life sentence means really means about 10 years, and indeed that has been the tariff handed out to murderers and a child rapist in the past few weeks. It is causing deep disquiet amongst victims, whose suffering often is for life.

“I think the time has come to take another look at the minimum terms being set. If judges are operating within a legislative framework that guides sentencing, then the law must be reviewed, although the discretion they could use often isn’t.

“In the meantime, there are a number of cases in recent weeks in which the sentences are worthy of re-examination. Sentences are simply not reflecting the severity of crimes in too many cases.

“I have no doubt that what the Lord Chief Justice has said in defence of sentencing procedures in Northern Ireland is correct – but that is cold comfort for those whose loved ones have been murdered and then the guilty have gotten away with relatively short sentences.”

“I will be writing to the Attorney General to request him to back a review of life sentences, so that families can feel at least their grief and sense of loss is acknowledged.”

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