Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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The Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided that a court could refuse bail to a suspect where it feared that while at liberty they would commit a serious criminal offence. It was effected by the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1996, which was approved by referendum on 28 November 1996 and signed into law on 12 December of the same year.

Changes to the text

Insertion of new Article 40.4.7º[1]:

Provision may be made by law for the refusal of bail by a court to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.


In People (AG) v O'Callaghan (1966), the Supreme Court had ruled that the provisions of Article 40.4, which guarantees personal liberty and the principle of habeas corpus, meant that an individual charged with a crime could only be refused bail if they were likely to flee or to interfere with witnesses or evidence. The Sixteenth Amendment made it possible for a court to take into account whether or not a person had committed serious crimes while on bail in the past. The amendment was introduced by the Fine GaelLabour PartyDemocratic Left government led by Taoiseach John Bruton, but was also supported by the two major opposition parties, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. The referendum was approved, on a low turnout, by 579,740 (74.8%) in favour to 194,968 (25.2%) against. While the change shown above is that made to the English-language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that takes precedence.

The Bail Act, 1997 was passed as the provision to be made by law arising from the amendment.


Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[2]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 579,740 74.83
No 194,968 25.17
Valid votes 774,708 99.63
Invalid or blank votes 2,878 0.37
Total votes 777,586 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,659,895 29.23

See also


  1. This provision was renumbered as 40.4.6º by the Twenty-first Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland in 2002.
  2. "Referendum Results" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 12 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links