Fine Gael Meath East Deputy, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) said that transparency is urgently needed into how and why sentences, especially in cases of sexual assault, are suspended. Deputy Doherty also called for a steadfast set of rules to be put in place where minimum sentencing is concerned.
“There appears to be little or no consistency in how the judicial system operates in this country in terms of administering sentences, particularly where sexual assaults are concerned. Of even more significance is the lack of clarity around how and why suspensions of the term set down by the judge are decided upon.
“Reporting a sexual assault takes immense courage and strength and this is evidenced by the fact that the reporting rate is fewer than one in ten. Furthermore, the drop-out rate for those pursuing convictions is extremely high, as the true extent of what is involved in taking a case becomes known.
“Five years ago, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton compiled a set of general principles to be used when sentencing cases of a sexual nature, which are largely followed in the courts today. However, a series of recent proceedings have clearly established that there is no consistency whatsoever when it comes to suspending sentences, with the result that the perpetrators of crimes of a sexually violent nature can largely go unpunished.
“When a woman, or a man, has been the victim of a sexual assault, it takes enormous strength to come forward and to ultimately face their attacker. If those who are considering taking a case think that a lenient sentence of a matter of months will be the up-shot of their efforts, the prospect of bringing a case diminishes greatly.
“Victims of sexual assaults are given a life sentence in carrying the long-term psychological effects and the horror of the memory of their attack with them forever. There is no escape for them. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the perpetrators of abuse, many of whom walk away with minimal sentences for crimes of a sexual and horrifically violent nature.”