THE IMPACT IN SENTENCING OF A PLEA FOR CLEMENCY BY THE VICTIM

From Judge Wayne Gorman:

In Director of Public Prosecutions -v- T.S [2019] IECA 252, the accused was convicted of sexual offences against his spouse.  The victim wrote a letter to the sentencing court expressing remorse for having contacted the police and seeking leniency for the accused.  She described forgiving him and the impact that a period of incarceration would have on her and their children.

On an appeal from sentence, the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal considered how a plea for clemency by a victim should be considered in imposing sentence.

The Court of Appeal indicated that “ordinarily this is something to which courts attribute some weight”.  However, it held that such a plea “can never…be determinative because crime is an attack on society and not simply a private wrong” (at paragraph 32):

The attitude of the victim of a crime is a factor which a judge may take into consideration in sentencing an offender. However, as observed by the judge, the offence is an attack on society and not simply a private wrong, and therefore the attitude of the victim is not determinative. It is a factor to be taken into account and weighed in the balance in order to achieve a proportionate sentence; that is a sentence proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the personal circumstances of the offender. The judge assessed the plea for clemency as being one of the factors to be taken into consideration in constructing a proportionate sentence and in this regard, we are satisfied that the approach of the trial judge was beyond reproach.

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