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Question

65. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for sentencing guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42515/18]

128. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for sentencing guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42728/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 128 together.
In its current form the Judicial Council Bill, which was published in June 2017 and which is awaiting Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann, provides for the establishment of a Sentencing Information Committee which would have responsibility for the collation of sentencing information and the dissemination of that information. The objective of that provision was to improve the availability of information on sentencing and precedents and thereby to support a more structured approach in relation to sentencing.
Advice was sought earlier this year from the Office of the Attorney General as to the scope which might exist for strengthening these provisions. The advice received was to the effect that non-binding sentencing guidelines are constitutionally permissible. However, there would be constitutional difficulties if guidelines of a binding or statutory nature were to be imposed on the courts in criminal matters.
Following on from that advice, a set of amendments aimed at transforming the Sentencing Information Committee into a Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee has been developed within my Department. Those amendments are very close to being finalised and I hope that I will be in a position to table them in the very near future.