Irish academic warns against repeating US mandatory sentencing ‘mistake’



Dr Claire Hamilton, a senior law lecturer at Maynooth University
Dr Claire Hamilton, a senior law lecturer at Maynooth University

The introduction of mandatory sentencing in the US was an “expensive mistake”, an Irish law lecturer has told the Irish Independent.

Dr Claire Hamilton, a senior law lecturer at Maynooth University, warned that Ireland could repeat America’s mistake because the Government is “reluctant” to heed the advice of the Law Reform Commission and other critical organisations.

Ireland currently has a number of mandatory and minimum sentences, such as a mandatory life sentence for murder and a minimum 10-year sentence for serious drugs and firearms offences.

However, Dr Hamilton has called on the Government to investigate non-custodial initiatives like electronic tagging, drug courts, therapeutic service and restorative justice.

Dr Hamilton told the Irish Independent: “Crime in the US has not gone away. It is still there. Crime rates and prison rates are independent of one another. You don’t increase the rate of imprisonment and decrease the crime rate. It’s not that simple.”

She added: “What I want to see here is the recognition that the punitive route is not one that we should go down. It is in effect a failure. It does not work. It is not evidence-based.”