New offences and tougher sentences to tackle violent crime
Stalking and non-fatal strangulation have become standalone criminal offences following the commencement of a wide-ranging law which also increases the maximum sentence for various offences and introduces new protections for victims.
Almost all of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 has been commenced with effect from today, with the exception of Part 5 which is expected to be commenced in 2024 as further preparatory work is necessary in the courts.
The changes in force from today include:
- an increase in the maximum sentence for assault causing harm, a common offence in domestic abuse cases as well as in other assaults, from five years to 10 years;
- a widening of the scope of the existing harassment offence 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 10 years;
- a standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, and a standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation causing serious harm with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment;
- an increase in the maximum sentence for assaulting or threatening to assault a Garda or other on duty emergency workers from seven to 12 years; and
- and increase in the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder from the current penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment.
Justice minister Helen 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.”
She continued: “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.”