Suspended sentences 'have to be balanced with some kind of punishment'

Questions have been raised after a teenager involved in an attack in Dublin was spared jail
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.10 10 Feb 2023

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Suspended sentences 'have to b...

Suspended sentences 'have to be balanced with some kind of punishment'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.10 10 Feb 2023

Share this article

Suspended sentences have to be balanced out, so there is some kind of proper punishment.

That is according to victim advocate Ruth Maxwell, who was herself the victim of an attack in Dublin in May 2016 as she walked to work.

She fought off the attacker but suffered life-changing injuries to her hand.


It comes as questions have been raised over whether there is merit to mandatory sentencing, after a teenager - who was involved in an attack in Dublin which resulted in a woman having boiling water poured over her - was spared jail.

Ruth told Lunchtime Live any suspended sentences need to be subsidised with other punishments.

"You have people who are defiant in the face of the courts because they've been given suspended sentences - they're really unaffected," she said.

"If that was the case, why aren't there mandatory community programmes, if they received a suspended sentence, that they have to participate in?

"Then again, with sex offenders, why aren't there mandatory sex offender programmes?

"If they're not going to implement harsher deterrents through mandatory sentences, why then don't they shift it more towards the community with all these mandatory programmes [like] the electronic tagging system?

"They've got to balance it out so that there is some kind of proper punishment even with suspended sentences," she added.

'Falling through that gap'

Ms Maxwell said even with such sentences, people serve less time.

"Mandatory sentencing is really a guideline for judges," she said.

"But even in some particular cases, it should be the maximum that would be put in place.

"Then you'll have other offenders who will fall through that gap, that there was no area where they could have given the maximum sentence.

"When you take my case, he would have initially been sentenced to 11 years, and he fought that and that came down to eight years.

A courtroom inside the Courts of Criminal Justice in Dublin. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

"So then his custodial sentence would have only been six and a half years.

"That was argued over the basis that knife crime was only up to five-year sentencing - so they had gone over in the false imprisonment area.

"Whereas if there had have been a mandatory sentence of 10 years for knife crime, he would have served more time.

"Collectively overall, with all of the five cases, he's now the longest-serving prisoner in the Republic.

"When you break down the actual custodial sentence, which is what they'd serve in prison, it's still again very different.

"It's like a sentencing lottery for victims, and it can be disheartening and deflating".

'Actual custodial sentence'

Ms Maxwell said the whole process leaves people exhausted.

"It's trying to weigh a balance up between going through the whole system and how exhausted you are after it," she said.

"Then you're completely and utterly deflated when you realise the actual custodial sentence at the end of it.

"You're not told that immediately, and also you don't know how much time they're going to get off for good behaviour.

"So you will never actually know their release date.

"It's really, really difficult," she added.

Listen back to the full interview below:

Main image: Split screen shows Ruth Maxwell and the Courts of Criminal Justice in Dublin city

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Attack Community Programmes Dublin Lunchtime Live Mandatory Sentencing Ruth Maxwell Suspended Sentences Victim's Advocate

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