Written Answers. - Prisoner Transfers.

Jim Higgins

Question:

134 Mr. Higgins (Mayo) asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an assurance was given by the Northern Ireland authorities that a person (details supplied) transferred to Northern Ireland will serve his sentence in full; and the length of sentence to be served. [8290/98]

The person referred to in the question was transferred to Northern Ireland to serve the balance of his sentence under the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

Prior to his transfer, the Northern Ireland authorities advised my Department that his sentence would be administered under the "continued enforcement" procedure in accordance with article 10 of the convention. The Northern Ireland authorities are thus bound by both the legal nature as well as the duration of the sentence as determined by the sentencing state.

The Northern Ireland authorities further advised that life sentence prisoners generally serve a period within the range of 10-20 years. Such prisoners in Northern Ireland normally have their cases reviewed by the life sentence review board for the first time at the ten year stage. The criteria used in reviewing such cases are similar to those applied in the administration of life sentences in this jurisdiction. Offenders in this jurisdiction who have served seven years or more of a determinate or indeterminate sentence, but excluding capital murder cases, may, if they so wish, have their cases considered by the sentence review group. The sentence review group advises the Minister in relation to the administration of long-term prison sentences.

The person referred to was the eleventh offender to be transferred to Northern Ireland since the convention was ratified here in November, 1995 with the passing of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act, 1995. Similar criteria have been used in assessing all such applications for transfer under the convention to date. It has also been established Government policy, in line with the humanitarian provisions of the convention, that all prisoners, whenever possible, should be permitted to serve their sentences close to their families.