The Criminal Justice Act, 1951 provides that the District Court may not impose a sentence of imprisonment of more than two years. In practice, the maximum sentence which may be imposed by a court of summary jurisdiction is frequently capped at 12 months and in some cases, less.

The Criminal Justice Act 1993 introduced the possibility of the DPP applying to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review an unduly lenient sentence.

The 2006 Criminal Justice Act provides a statutory basis for certain aspects of the probation and welfare service, suspending sentences, the non-custodial part of a sentence, electronic monitoring and restrictions on movement orders.

Various legislation in recent years has introduced minimum sentences.

The Criminal Justice Act 1951 provides that where a sentence of imprisonment is passed on any person by the District Court, the Court may order that the sentence shall commence at the expiration of any other term of imprisonment to which the person has been previously sentenced. However, where two or more sentences are passed by the District Order or ordered to run consecutively, the aggregate period of imprisonment shall not exceed two years.

Generally, where sentences are being imposed in relation to a single criminal transaction, consecutive sentences should not be imposed for different summonses, which refers to the same matter so as to render the aggregate sentence in excess of 12 months.

Where a person on being convicted of an offence, admits himself guilty of any other offence and asks it to be taken into consideration in awarding punishment, the court may if the DPP consents, take it into account and consider it accordingly. If the court does so, a note of the fact should be made and filed with the record of the sentence. The accused shall not be prosecuted for that offence, unless his conviction is reversed on appeal.

Criminal Law Act 1976 provides that any sentence of penal servitude or imprisonment or in St. Patrick’s Institution, passed for an offence committed while a person is serving such sentence shall be consecutive upon the sentence that he is serving.

If he is serving or is due to serve more than one sentence, it is consecutive on the sentence last due to expire, provided that where two or more consecutive sentences are passed by the District Court, the aggregate term of imprisonment shall not exceed 12 months. The above provision does not apply in any case where the sentence being served or to be passed is one of penal servitude for life or life imprisonment.

Where the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while on bail or committed while the person is unlawfully at large, after issue of a warrant for his arrest, for noncompliance with a recognizance, shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him for a previous offence or where there are two or more sentences, on the expiration of the last sentence due to expire. However, where two or more consecutive sentences required by this provision are passed by the District Court, the aggregate imprisonment is not to exceed two years.

Where a court is determining the sentence to be imposed on a person for an offence committed while he is on bail and is required by the above provision to impose two or more consecutive sentences, then the fact that the offence was committed while a person was on bail, shall be treated for the purpose of determining the sentence as an aggravating factor.

The court shall, except where the sentence for the previous offence is one of imprisonment for life, or where the court considers there are exceptional circumstances justifying it not doing so, impose a sentence that is greater than that which would have been imposed in the absence of such a factor.

It appears that the obligation to impose consecutive sentences is not cumulative where there are two or more previous offences being sentenced. The court should sentence the last one consecutively to the last to expire of the earlier sentences.

The DPP may apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal for review of an unduly lenient sentence. It is made within 28 days of conviction or such longer period not exceeding 56 days as the court may on an application on that behalf determine.

On the application, the court may quash the sentence and in place of it impose such sentence as it considers appropriate, being a sentence, which could have been imposed in respect of the matter concerned or may refuse the application.


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