Dáil rejects equalisation of sentences for men and women convicted of incest

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Prison sentences for incest were hotly debated in the Dáil last night as the Sexual Offences Bill came up for its second stage debate.

A successful amendment from Jonathan O’Brien, justice spokesperson for Sinn Féin, proposed to remove provisions of the bill which bring sentences for women convicted of incest in line with sentences for men.

Under the Punishment of Incest Act 1908, men and women were made liable for equal sentences of between three and seven years for incest.

However, subsequent legislation has increased the maximum sentence for men to life imprisonment, while left unchanged for women.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told TDs that the bill would “equalise the penalties between offences committed by males and those committed by females, as well as taking the opportunity to modernise some of the language in the Act”.

However, Mr O’Brien said he would “be pressing my amendment because I do not believe the Minister has demonstrated what public good would be served by increasing that sentence to life in prison”.

Jim O’Callaghan, justice spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, said he supported the amendment as he believed “imposing a potential sentence of life imprisonment on a female for incest is excessive”.

The amendment was carried and the bill was approved by TDs at the second stage.

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