EDITORIAL: A recent report suggests that Ireland is deficient in addressing ‘hate crime.’ Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to how our judicial system views assaults on the Frontline men and women of An Garda Síochána.
The reality is that prison sentences for assaults on gardaí are not handed down of sufficient length to deter this type of criminal violence. The Frontline are not primarily concerned as to the ‘quality’ of how a prison sentence is served, and in this regard remains open to the introduction of best international rehabilitative practices in Irish prisons. Gardaí are however, most concerned with the length of sentences served by those convicted of crime in this jurisdiction who attack and injure them.
The law in relation to assaults on the general public and gardaí is part contained in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Sentences handed down under this piece of legislation (or similar) fail to reflect the seriousness of attacks on gardaí. Our proposals are simple. For a s.2, Assault, there must be a minimum of six months imprisonment for assaulting gardaí. For a s.3, Assault Causing Harm, there should be a minimum of one-year imprisonment and for a s.4, Assault Causing Serious Harm, a minimum of five years imprisonment must be handed down.
Frontline gardaí recognise only too well that assaults on members of the general public are also treated with gross unfairness when it comes to judicial senetencing practices. However, gardaí remain the metaphor; the bottom line for what we tolerate in our society. They are the people who walk towards danger so that the rest of us can walk away. The GRA proposes nothing more than fairness for garda victims, their families and offender alike.
An Garda Síochána are the guardians of the peace in this State. They are the first and last line between civilization and chaos. Mandatory minimum sentences are critical if we are to achieve justice for gardaí who have been assaulted and by implication, wider society. As defenders of the people, our legislators must now evidence a minimum level of disapproval when it comes to assaults and hate crime against gardaí – regardless of individual case circumstances.
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.