Weighing in the balance: Reflections on the sentencing process from a children's rights perspective

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Donson, Fiona
Parkes, Aisling
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A substantial body of research now exists indicating that parental imprisonment can produce multiple negative effects on dependent children. While the criminal justice system can respond to this post-imprisonment through positive interventions, an important question arises as to whether courts should take into account the impact of imprisonment on the children of offenders at the point of sentencing. The recognition of children’s rights in many jurisdictions has prompted courts to develop approaches that take account of these important third party considerations. This article will explore how the courts of South Africa and England and Wales have made space for the rights of children of offenders within the sentencing process and consider whether Ireland might adopt such an approach. Central to this process is how relevant information regarding dependent children can best be presented to the sentencing court. The article will therefore examine the potential introduction of child impact statements into the Irish sentencing process, and the extent to which probation officers are suited to adapting their current pre-sanction report role to include child impact information.
Sentencing , Probation officers , Children of prisoners , Children’s rights , Pre-sentence reports , Child impact statements , Guardian Ad Litem , Probation
Donson, F. and Parkes, A. (2016) 'Weighing in the balance: Reflections on the sentencing process from a children’s rights perspective', Probation Journal, 63(3), pp. 331-346. doi: 10.1177/0264550516649575
© The Author(s) 2016. This accepted manuscript version is reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. The published version is available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0264550516649575