Government Unveils Tougher Sentences for Sex Offenders; McKenna Case Helps Lengthen Penalties for Sex Crimes

Article excerpt

PLANS to increase jail sentences for sex offenders were unveiled yesterday by the Irish Government following the high profile case of victim Sorcha McKenna.

Irish Justice Minister John O'Donoghue said he intends to increase sentences for sexual offenders from five years up to 10 years in cases involving adult victims and 14 years in cases involving abuse of children.

He said he had decided to act after meeting Ms McKenna, now 19, who has been lobbying for longer sentences after her father was jailed for just three years for sexually abusing her as a child from the age of four.

Mr O'Donoghue told RTE radio: ''At the present time, for ordinary sexual assault the maximum term which a court may impose is five years imprisonment.

''I feel that this is too little ... and accordingly I have decided to increase the maximum amount ... so in the future, in the case of a sexual assault on an adult, the maximum sentence which a court may impose will be ten years and in the case of a sexual assault on a child the maximum sentence which a court may impose will be 14 years.''

He added that he expected the tougher sentences to be applied in particularly serious cases or where there were previous convictions.

Mr O'Donoghue said sex abuse victims owed Ms McKenna ''a debt of gratitude''.

He added: ''She explained to me in heart-wrenching terms the deep trauma which she felt. …