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  • New criminal offences and tougher sentences take effect from today, Minister McEntee announces

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has announced that a range of new criminal offences, as well as tougher sentences for existing offences, come into effect from today, November 1 2023.

The offences include measures targeting violent and organised crime, violence against Gardaí and other emergency service workers, and landmark measures to support victims and punish perpetrators of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Minister McEntee said the new laws and tougher sentences mark a milestone in the Government’s efforts to build stronger, safer communities and have Zero Tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

From today, and under Minister McEntee’s Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023:

  • The maximum sentence for assault causing harm, a common offence in domestic abuse cases as well as in other assaults, increases from five years to ten years
  • The scope of the existing harassment offence is widened to include any conduct that seriously interferes with a person’s peace and privacy, or causes alarm, distress or harm
  • A new standalone offence of stalking, with a maximum sentence of up to ten years, is created and in effect;
  • A standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation with a maximum sentence of up to ten years, and a standalone offenceof non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation causing serious harm with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment, often indicators of further, potentially lethal violence against a woman, are created and in effect
  • The maximum sentence for assaulting or threatening to assault a Garda or other on duty emergency workers increases from 7 to 12 years
  • The maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder increases from the current penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment to further toughen thelaws around gangland crime

Minister McEntee said:

“The commencement of this Act is an important milestone and underlines this Government’s commitment to building stronger, safer communities.

This means tackling gangland criminals, ensuring our Gardaí and emergency workers are supported in the work they do and having Zero Tolerance for domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

Increasing the maximum sentence for assault causing harm will provide the Courts with a tougher range of sentences to take account of the range and gravity of the assaults that fall under this category.

We know this is one of the most common crimes in domestic violence cases and that is why we wanted to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated.

Introducing new standalone offences for stalking and strangling are also significant in this regard as both of these offences are unfortunately common ways abusers assault victims.

It has been shown that non-fatal strangulation can be an indication of future, lethal violence and is a risk factor for homicides against women in the home.

While choking and strangling are already illegal, it is my hope that this new offence will encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them.

Similarly, while stalking is already illegal, we are creating a standalone offence, defined in terms of causing either a fear of violence, or serious alarm and distress that has a substantial impact on a person’s day to day activities.

I want to thank Una Ring and Eve McDowell for their work in championing these particular changes and working with my and Oireachtas colleagues to make these changes happen.

All of these changes fulfil the commitments I made in Zero Tolerance plan, the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, and Supporting a Victim’s Journey, which was published last year.”

The Act also introduces a range of provisions that will provide better protection for Gardaí and strengthen the laws designed to tackle serious and organised crime.

These include:

  • Increasing the maximum sentence for assaulting or threatening to assault a police officer from 7 to 12 years. The increase in maximum sentence will apply where the assault in question is against an on duty Garda or emergency service worker, such as hospital staff, prison officers, members of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel or members of the Defence Forces
  • Increasing the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder from the current penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder has been set at 10 years since 1861. It is used when two or more people form a plan to murder another person but are stopped before they can carry it out 

Minister McEntee continued:

“From day one as Minister for Justice, ensuring the safety of Gardaí and all other frontline workers has been one of my main priorities.

On too many occasions in recent years we have seen Gardaí, hospital staff, members of the fire brigade and many other frontline workers assaulted as they go about their business protecting people and communities.  Increasing the maximum sentence for such crimes will be an important deterrent and also clearly communicates the gravity of such crimes.

I would like to thank Minister of State James Browne, my colleague Minister Simon Harris and colleagues in the Dáil and Seanad and officials in my Department who all played a key role in ensuring the swift passage of this legislation through the Oireachtas.”

Part 5 – subject to separate commencement in New Year – operational and legal prep by Courts