Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Donson, F.
Society of Legal Scholars, 2012
Sentencing of mothers and the rights of the child
Bristol University
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Until recently Ireland was seen as a jurisdiction with low levels of imprisonment of women. However, over the last few years levels of imprisonment of women have seen a steady and significant rise. Women are usually imprisoned for non-violent offences and for sentences of less than one year. Typically, the majority of imprisoned women are mothers and the impact of their imprisonment falls particularly hard on their children. The Irish Penal Reform Trust estimates that only 5 percent of these children remain at home during their mother’s incarceration.  The traditional approach to viewing sentencing is through the lens of the offender, victim and wider society. Children are merely seen as “circumstances of the mother”. However, there is a further perspective to consider where imprisonment is being considered in relation to a parent – that is the perspective of the rights of any dependent children. When the children are understood as independent rights holders in the sentencing court then obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights to consider matters such as the family life and the best interests of the child(ren) become relevant. This paper will consider some of the issues raised by this child rights perspective in relation to sentencing of women offenders. It is based on current research in Ireland and will offer provisional conclusions regarding Ireland’s experience of sentencing in this area and possible reforms. It will also draw briefly on experiences from other jurisdictions as to how a child rights perspective can impact on the sentencing process.
College of Business and Law