International Experts to Gather at the CCJHR to Discuss Legal Responses to Crimes of Sexual Violence

On 27th June 2008 the CCJHR will hold its 3rd Annual Criminal Law Conference. This year’s conference, supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs in recognition of Ireland’s chair of the Human Security Network, concerns “Reforming the Law on Sexual Violence: International Perspectives”.

The conference will feature papers from renowned experts in international and Irish law:

* Judge Teresa Doherty (Special Court for Sierra Leone)

* James Hamilton, Director of Public Prosecutions
* Kelly D. Askin (Open Society Justice Initiative)
* Doris Buss (Carleton University, Canada)
* Martha Fineman (Emory University)
* Fionnuala ni Aolain (Univ. of Minnesota and TJI, University of Ulster)
* Penny Andrews (Valparaiso University and La Trobe University)
* Madeleine Rees (OHCHR)
* Ben Klappe (Netherlands Defence Academy)
* Ollie Barbour (Irish Defence Forces)
* Nora Owen (Commission for Victims of Crime)
* Tom O’Malley (NUI Galway)
* Amira Khair Khair (ICC Women/Sudan)
* Milena Pires (Timor Leste)
* Mary Ellen Ring (Senior Counsel; to be confirmed)

A preliminary programme is available here and the booking form is available here. Those interested in attending are advised to BOOK EARLY to avoid disappointment as this is an ever-popular event.

Any queries relating to the conference can be directed to ccjhr[at]ucc.ie

Supreme Court Decision on Sentencing in Rape Cases

RTE News reports that the Supreme Court this morning held that a life sentence can be imposed as a result of rape, even where the accused has pleaded guilty. On two levels this decision is particularly significant.

First of all it is significant in terms of the recognition of the seriousness of rape as a criminal offence and the sentence imposed as a result. The Central Criminal Court has frequently advocated apparently lenient sentences in rape cases in the past, thus the court’s decision to uphold the life sentence imposed on the appellants in this case is particularly noteworthy, although the court does appear to have stressed the particular nature of the circumstances in this case in reaching this decision. ). The appellants in this case had been found guilty of multiple charges of rape perpetrated against their children and, in one of the cases, against his nieces. According to the BBC, Kearns J. held that “[i]t is impossible to conceive of a greater breach of parental responsibility than occurred in these cases”.

On the second level the decision is important because of Kearns J.’s decision that a guilty plea does not necessarily result in a reduced sentence. The so called ‘guilty plea discount’ has long been an accepted element of sentencing policy and law, but has at the same time been subject to some fairly rigorous criticism. While Kearns J. – delivering a unanimous judgment of the Court – held that a guilty plea would be a mitigating factor, this did not necessarily mean that a guilty plea would save one from the maximum sentence (i.e. life imprisonment.

The judgment is not yet up on the Courts Service website.

Pantameter 2: Police Action on Trafficking

RTÉ News reports that the Irish and British police forces are today going to announce the launch of Pantameter 2; a transnational policing operation aimed at combating human trafficking (primarily, but not exclusively, sex trafficking). Operation Pantameter (1) was a similar operation run in the UK that resulted in the rescue of 84 “trafficking victims” and an additional 104 women at risk, 232 arrests and 134 indictments (Operation Report). The UK’s police force has a dedicated pentameter website which today displays some information on Pentameter 2, including a brief statement about the aims and policies underlying the initiative:

There is particular emphasis on understanding the nature and extent of trafficking, the involvement of organised crime groups and attacking the assets of such groups….One of the strategic aims of UKP2 is to increase knowledge and understanding of all forms of human trafficking in the UK but also raise awareness of the issue….2007 marks the passage of 200 years since Parliament passed the Act to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. In this bicentenary year, the Government has indicated a commitment to redoubling efforts to address this modern day form of slavery.