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Sentencing

If the jury finds the accused guilty, the judge has to decide what the sentence should be. The judge may not do this immediately. Usually, he or she will set a later date for sentencing. This is to allow probation officers, social workers, doctors, psychiatrists or the Gardaí (depending on the particular case) time to prepare a report. These reports help the judge to decide on the sentence. In sexual or violent crime cases, the reports might include a Victim Impact Statement, which will describe the effect the crime has had on the victim.

  1. Can the accused appeal the sentence handed down by the judge?

  2. Can the DPP appeal the sentence?

  3. Who can ask the DPP to appeal the sentence?

  4. How do appeal court judges review a sentence?


  1. Can the accused appeal the sentence handed down by the judge?

    Yes. How the accused does this depends on where the original trial took place.

    If the trial took place in a District Court, the accused can:

    • appeal the conviction or their sentence to the Circuit Court; and
    • have a full re-hearing of the case, which means that you would have to attend court as a witness again.

    If the trial took place in the Circuit Court, the Central Criminal Court or the Special Criminal Court, the accused can appeal the sentence or the conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal. In this court:

    • a Supreme Court judge and two High Court judges sit together to hear the appeal; and
    • the judges read the transcript of the original trial instead of hearing evidence all over again.

    Usually, if the accused has been sent to prison, he or she must remain in prison while waiting for the case to go to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

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  2. Can the DPP appeal the sentence?

    Yes, but only if the trial took place in the Circuit, Central Criminal or Special Criminal Court. The DPP cannot appeal a sentence of the District Court.

    The DPP can ask the Court of Criminal Appeal to review a sentence which she thinks is ‘unduly lenient’.  The Appeal Court will not increase a sentence just because it thinks the sentence is on the light side. They will only increase the sentence if they think the trial judge was wrong in law in giving such a light sentence. The DPP must ask for a review within 28 days of the judge handing down the sentence.  In some cases, the DPP can apply for more time to ask for a review but not more than 56 days.

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  3. Who can ask the DPP to appeal the sentence?

    By law, you can ask the DPP to appeal a sentence if you are:

    • a victim of a crime;
    • a family member of a victim of a crime;
    • an accused person; or
    • a family member of an accused person.

    Doctors, lawyers and social workers can also ask the DPP to appeal a sentence for their clients.

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  4. How do appeal court judges review a sentence?

    The judges will read the written record of the trial to see the trial judge's reasons for giving a particular sentence.  They will consider a sentence 'unduly lenient' only if they believe the trial judge made a mistake on a legal point.

    Appeal court judges will not change a sentence just because they think the sentence was too light or because they would have given a different sentence.  As a result, an appeal will only be possible in a small number of cases.

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