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Changes to children sentencing laws expected as 17-year-old gets life detention for murder

Judge encouraged by signals of expansion of sentencing alternatives for children convicted of serious crimes

Changes to the law governing the sentencing of children for serious crimes are expected after a 17-year-old youth was sentenced to detention for life for the murder of a mother of two in Dublin city just over two years ago.

The sentence will be reviewed after 13 years, with a prospect of parole after 12 years.

In imposing sentence, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, who had criticised a “yawning gap” in the Children Act 2001 in that it confers no express powers on the courts to suspend or review sentences on children convicted of serious crimes, said he was encouraged by indications from Government the matter is being addressed.

The judge had two weeks ago deferred sentence on the youth for the murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj to allow for a response from the legislature to his concerns.


The Minister for Justice Simon Harris has since said that legislation is being prepared to provide for amendments to the 2001 Act to ensure that sufficient alternative sentencing options are available to the courts, including alternatives to detention where considered appropriate.

The amendments will strengthen the provisions relating to deferment, detention and supervision orders and community sanctions, the Minister said. The focus during sentencing on reintegration into the community post-release will be strengthened, thereby providing more appropriate sentencing options to partly suspended sentences, he added.

On Monday, Mr Justice Hunt said, when the 2001 Act was being drawn up, it was possible that very young people committing serious offences was not considered.

“Just because they are a small number, they are important and significant and there needs to be a proper way in which the interests of the offender and society . . . can be synthesised at all stages of the process,” he said.

The youth was aged 14 at the time of the offence and cannot be named because he is a minor. He had denied the murder of Ms Tserendorj, aged 49, but had admitted manslaughter, a plea which was not accepted by the DPP. He was found guilty of her murder by a jury last year.

Ms Tserendorj was stabbed in the neck near the Irish Financial Services Centre as she walked home from her cleaning job in the early hours of January 20th 2021, after the teenager attempted to rob her. She died nine days later.

A native of Mongolia, Ms Teserendorj had moved to Ireland with her husband and two children some 15 years earlier.

After the sentencing hearing, former Dublin mayor Hazel Chu spoke outside the Courts of Criminal Justice on behalf of Ms Tserendorj’s family, with the deceased’s husband, Ulambayer Surenkhor, by her side.

“We just wanted to say a big thank you to Mr Justice Hunt and to the prosecution and also to the Garda liaison office,” Ms Chu said. “As you know it is two years since Urantsetseg Tserendorj died and today her family and her husband would like to thank the public for their support.”

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times