Parole Bill 2016: Report Stage

I understand that all parties are anxious to have this Bill enacted before the recess. Since we are recommitting it, the Deputies might consider a timeframe that is not open-ended. Strictly speaking, they may speak for as long as they like but I recommend that, in making their points, they take about three minutes. It is not a hard-and-fast rule but it is hoped that the Deputies might be able to adhere to it.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2

Amendments Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“ “Act of 1960” means the Criminal Justice Act 1960;

“Act of 2001” means the Children Act 2001;

“Act of 2005” means the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005;

“Act of 2006” means the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006;

“Act of 2007” means the Medical Practitioners Act 2007;

“Act of 2010” means the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of

Cohabitants Act 2010;

“application for parole” has the meaning assigned to it by section 26(3);”.

Amendment Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, amend and expand the definition and interpretation Part of the Bill. Many of the changes here are for drafting reasons and to ensure a greater level of clarity and legal certainty on the various terms used throughout the Bill. There are few, in particular, that I will mention. On the definition of "victim", the definition of "victim" used here is in line with the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017. The definition of "parole" here is defined as the release from prison, pursuant to a parole order, of a person serving a term imprisonment prior to the expiry of that term. It is important to note that release on parole does not and will not conclude the sentence of the person, who is being allowed the privilege, under certain conditions, of serving the remainder of the term in the community. The definitions of medical professionals are important for those sections of the Bill dealing with the composition of the board and the sections dealing with the powers of the board to obtain expert reports.

Amendment No. 7 inserts a new subsection into section 2 of the Bill, which will mean that where the death of a victim is caused by an offence, the entitlements under the Act for victims to be heard can be exercised by a family member. This must, of course, be anticipated for many of the cases coming to the Parole Board in respect of a decision. The Parole Board will initially only be considering life sentence prisoners, who will in most cases be serving sentences either for murder or manslaughter, although the Bill does provide that this can be extended later by regulation to other prisoners who may be serving long sentences.

Amendment No. 9 is related to amendment No. 7, which inserts a new section 3 into the Bill, which provides a mechanism for dealing with a decision on which a family member may exercise rights under the Bill. Amendment Nos. 7 and 9 reflect the provisions in the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017.

Amendment No. 8 inserts a new subsection (3) into section 2 of the Bill to state that the Bill applies to people who were sentenced to detention when they were a child but are now in an adult prison and that the period that they spent in child detention centre is included when calculating the length of sentence served for the purpose of determining when they first become eligible to be considered for parole. This ensures that prisoners who were sentenced to life as children are treated similarly to those sentenced as adults. This amendment No. 8 also ensures that a person can apply for parole while on temporary release and that any periods that a prisoner spent on temporary release during his sentence can be included for the purpose of calculating when they become eligible to be considered for parole.

I welcome this debate on the Parole Bill and I share the sentiment expressed by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on our joining together to enact it. I put down many amendments which got through on Committee Stage and I have not put down further amendments for this Stage. I support the amendments the Minister has referred to, namely, amendments Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, which in effect expand and provide greater definition in the interpretation section and also deal with sections 2 to 5, inclusive. As the Minister outlined, these deal with, in particular, the difficult situation that can arise when the family of a victim of crime cannot identify who should be the person who makes submissions to the board, and this is dealt with in amendment No. 9. This also deals expressly with the fact that the Act is without prejudice to other pieces of legislation, such as the Criminal Justice Act 1951 and the temporary release provisions in another piece of criminal justice legislation. I had indicated that in respect of the explanatory memorandum before the House when we debated this on Second Stage. The proposed amendment No. 11 is more appropriate and is worthwhile having it included. I will, therefore, be supporting amendments Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, as they improve the drafting of the Bill.

I may need help as I do not appear to have the groupings. I wonder if they are available in the Chamber. On the amendments in question, I am satisfied with them. They improve the Bill as to definitions and circumstances. Where a family member would have been the point of contact is now deceased, it enables their replacement. These amendments provide greater detail to some of the other provisions of the Bill and I will be supporting them.

In general, this is my first occasion to speak on this legislation. Our party had a different justice spokesman, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, when this legislation was initiated. It is valuable legislation. I welcome the work the Minister and Deputy O'Callaghan, in particular, have done on this as to putting this on a statutory basis and creating greater legal clarity. It is important legislation that will aid the process and I look forward to supporting it. I may consider further amendments for the Seanad but taking the Bill as a whole, we will be supporting it.

I merely wish to state for the record and I should have opened by saying that this is, in essence, Deputy O'Callaghan's Bill.

I wish to acknowledge that. The amendments being put forward from the Government side are to assist Deputy O'Callaghan in the matter of clarity and I suggest to the House that Deputy O'Callaghan will be familiar with any Government amendments proposed. I hope that we have not done anything nor said anything that might cut across what is a Private Member's Opposition Bill. That is in the letter and spirit of what I would like to ensure is a common theme in the course of this debate.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, line 19, after “the” to insert “Parole”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, to delete lines 20 to 24 and substitute the following:

“ “chief executive”, in relation to the Board, has the meaning assigned to it by section 18(1);

“child”, other than in the definition of family member, means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years;

“children detention school” has the meaning it has in section 3(1) of the Act of 2001;

“civil partner” means a person in a civil partnership or legal relationship to which section 3 of the Act of 2010 applies;

“cohabitant” means a cohabitant within the meaning of section 172(1) of the Act of 2010;

“designated centre” has the meaning it has in section 1 of the Act of 2006;

“eligible for parole”, in relation to a person, means eligible for parole in accordance with section 24;

“establishment day” means the day appointed under section 6;

“family member”, in relation to a victim, means—

(a) a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the victim,

(b) a child or step-child of the victim,

(c) a parent or grandparent of the victim,

(d) a brother, sister, half brother or half sister of the victim,

(e) a grandchild of the victim,

(f) an aunt, uncle, nephew or niece of the victim, and

(g) any other person—

(i) who was dependent on the victim, or

(ii) who the Board considers had a sufficiently close connection with the victim as to warrant his or her being treated as a family member;

“governor”, in relation to a prison, means—

(a) the governor of the prison, or

(b) a person who is for the time being performing the functions of governor of the prison;

“Irish Prison Service” means the prison service of the Department of Justice and Equality, which is charged with the management of prisons;

“legal representative” means a practising solicitor or a practising barrister;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, to delete lines 26 and 27 and substitute the following:

“ “parole” means the release from prison pursuant to a parole order of a person serving a term of imprisonment prior to the expiry of that term;

“parole applicant” means a person who has made an application for parole;

“parolee” means a person who is the subject of a parole order;”.

Amendment agreed to

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, line 28, to delete “shall be construed in accordance with section 22” and substitute “has the meaning assigned to it by section 27(1)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 6, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:

“ “prison” means a place of custody administered by or on behalf of the Minister (other than a Garda Síochána station) and includes—

(a) a place provided under section 2 of the Prisons Act 1970, and

(b) a place specified under section 3 of the Prisons Act 1972;

“probation officer” means a person appointed by the Minister to be a probation officer;

“Probation Service” means those officers of the Minister assigned to perform functions in the part of the Department of State for which the Minister is responsible commonly known by that name;

“medical practitioner” means a medical practitioner who is for the time being registered in the register of medical practitioners;

“psychiatrist” means a medical practitioner who is for the time being registered in the Specialist Division of the register of medical practitioners under the medical specialty of

“Psychiatry” or under the medical specialty of “Child and Adolescent Psychiatry”;

“psychologist” means a person—

(a) who practices as such,

(b) who holds a qualification listed opposite the profession of psychologist in the third column of Schedule 3 to the Act of 2005 or a qualification that is a corresponding qualification, within the meaning of section 90 of that Act, to that qualification, and

(c) following the establishment under section 36 of the Act of 2005 of the register of members of the profession of psychologist, whose name is for the time being entered in that register;

“register of medical practitioners” means the register of medical practitioners established under section 43 of the Act of 2007;

“relevant governor”, in relation to a parole applicant or parolee, means—

(a) where the parole applicant or parolee, as the case may be, is detained in a prison, the governor of the prison where he or she is so detained,

(b) where the parole applicant or parolee, as the case may be, is on release from prison for a temporary period in accordance with a direction given by the Minister under section 2 of the Act of 1960, the governor of the prison from which he or she is so released, or

(c) where the parolee is on release from prison on parole, the governor of the prison from which he or she is so released;

“relevant victim”, in relation to a parole applicant or a parolee, means the victim of the criminal offence in respect of which the parole applicant or the parolee, as the case may be, is serving the sentence of imprisonment to which the application for parole or the parole order, as the case may be, relates;

“victim” means a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss, which was directly caused by an offence.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“(2) Subject to section 3, a reference to a victim in this Act shall, where the death of a victim is caused directly by an offence, be construed as a reference to a family member provided that the family member concerned has not been charged with, or is not under investigation for, an offence in connection with the death of the victim.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“(3) In this Act—

(a) a reference to a person serving a sentence of imprisonment shall be construed as including both—

(i) a person upon whom a sentence of detention was imposed by a court when he or she was a child where he or she has been transferred to a prison to serve the remainder of the sentence in accordance with section 155 of the Act of 2001, and

(ii) a person who is released from prison for a temporary period in accordance with a direction given by the Minister under section 2 of the Act of 1960,

and

(b) for the purposes of calculating the length of a sentence of imprisonment, or the portion of such a sentence served—

(i) any period of detention served in a children detention school by the person where he or she has been transferred to a prison to serve the remainder of the sentence in accordance with section 155 of the Act of 2001,

(ii) any time spent in a designated centre, where the person has been transferred to the designated centre pursuant to section 15 of the Act of 2006, while serving the sentence of imprisonment, and

(iii) any time spent on release from prison for a temporary period in accordance with a direction given by the Minister under section 2 of the Act of 1960 while serving the sentence of imprisonment other than time spent on such release where the currency of the sentence of the person is suspended pursuant to section 5 of that Act, shall be included.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

Nomination of family members

3. Where the death of a relevant victim is caused directly by an offence and more than one family member of the victim seeks to make a submission to the Board in accordance with procedures determined under section 14, the Board may—

(a) request that the family members concerned nominate a family member to make such submission, or

(b) where the family members are unable to reach agreement in respect of a nomination under paragraph (a), nominate one or more family members for the purposes of making the submission, having regard to the degree of relationship between the family members and the victim.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 4

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, to delete lines 19 to 22.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 4, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 6, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Application of Act

5. (1) This Act is without prejudice to—

(a) the power of the Minister to give a direction that a person be released from prison for a temporary period under section 2 of the Act of 1960,

(b) the power to commute or remit a punishment under section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act 1951, or

(c) rules or practice whereby prisoners generally may earn remission of sentences by industry or good conduct,

or anything done under those sections or rules, or in accordance with that practice, as the case may be, whether prior to or after the commencement of this section.

(2) This Act shall not apply to qualifying prisoners within the meaning of the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Act 1998.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 5 deleted.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 12 to 16, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 7, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

“Establishment day

6. The Minister shall, by order, appoint a day to be the establishment day for the purposes of this Act.”.

These amendments are, by and large, technical in nature. They deal with the setting up of the board. The new section 6 allows the Minister to appoint a day to be the establishment day of the board. I would contend that this is a standard provision in this type of Bill. I ask Members to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 6

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 7, line 5, to delete “commencement” and substitute “establishment”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 7, lines 5 and 6, to delete all words from and including “to” in line 5 down to and including line 6 and substitute “which shall be known as An Bord Parúil or, in the English language, the Parole Board,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 7, to delete lines 14 and 15.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 7, line 17, to delete “signature” and substitute “signatures”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Amendments Nos. 17 to 20, inclusive, and 31 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Functions of Board

9. (1) The Board, in addition to the other functions conferred on it by this Act—

(a) shall provide information to persons serving sentences of imprisonment, victims and members of the public in relation to its functions,

(b) shall provide information to the Minister in relation to its functions and make recommendations to the Minister, upon his or her request, to assist him or her in coordinating and making policy related to the release of persons from prison on parole, and

(c) may undertake, commission or assist in research projects and other activities related to the release of persons from prison on parole which in the opinion of the Board may assist it in the exercise of its functions, and make recommendations to the Minister arising from those projects or activities.

(2) Subject to this Act, the Board shall be independent in the exercise of its functions.

(3) Any function of the Board may be performed through or by the chief executive or any member of the staff of the Board duly authorised in that behalf by the Board.”.

These amendments are to Part 2 of the Bill and relate to the functions and composition of the board. I would contend that they reflect the intentions of Deputy O'Callaghan to large measure. There are some changes, which I will make brief reference to now, if I may.

Amendment No. 17 inserts a section on the functions of the board replacing the existing section 7. Importantly, this is the section that provides that the board is to be independent in the performance of its functions, which is a central feature of Deputy O'Callaghan's legislation. While the primary functions of the board are described throughout the body of the Bill, this section gives the board the power to do other things such as providing information in respect of its functions.

Amendment No. 18 refers to the membership of the board and replaces the existing section 8. The original policy intent as to how people are to be appointed to the board is retained. While members of the board are technically to be appointed by the Minister, the majority will in effect be nominated by State bodies and a number of professional organisations. This is to ensure that the board has the necessary range and depth of expertise to make decisions properly on the matter of parole. There will be experts in law and psychology and experts with experience in psychiatry. There will be a member of the staff of the Irish Prison Service, a member of An Garda Síochána and a probation officer. These will bring their expertise of working on a day-to-day basis on the front line within the criminal justice system to the decisions of the board. Another member of the board will be drawn from an NGO working in an area of prisoners' rights or prison reform. The other members will be persons chosen on the basis of their experience and expertise. This section also includes provisions to ensure that there will be a gender balance on the board.

There have been some suggestions that board members should be appointed following an open competition by the Public Appointments Service. I am not averse to this idea in principle, but I am concerned, especially in the early years, that this would confine the selection process to those who apply. This might result in the necessary and appropriate breadth of experience and expertise not being available to the board. I would say to those Deputies who may have some concerns that I am happy to keep this matter under review. We can re-examine it at some stage in the future in light of the experience and workings of the board.

Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 deal with the terms of the appointments, the matter of resignation from the board, the ineligibility of board members and the removal of board members. As with an earlier amendment, these are standard provisions in legislation of this kind. These sections replace the original section 9 of the Bill.

These amendments amend the Part of the Bill that governs the Parole Board. Amendment No. 17 seeks to provide a more precise definition of the functions of the board than was outlined in section 7 of the Bill as originally drafted. I am happy to go along with that. The amendment is effective and beneficial.

As the Minister stated, amendment No. 18 sets out specifically what the membership of the board should be. This is similar to what was originally outlined in the section 8 that I drafted, and it remains the case that the membership of the board can number no more than 15. The Minister, in the amendment, has suggested that the number of members should be between 12 and 15. That is appropriate, and it is worthwhile keeping flexibility in that respect.

One of the concerns with the parole process was that the Executive had too much control over it in that the Minister appointed the Parole Board and ultimately made the decision on whether parole was granted. I am pleased that the Minister has kept on board the proposal in the original legislation, which is that, although he appoints the people, the individuals are nominated by persons who are independent of the Government. For example, the chairman of the board will be nominated by the Chief Justice and any lawyer on the board will be nominated by the Bar Council or the Law Society. Obviously, this is a board that will require members with diverse abilities across multifaceted disciplines. For that reason, we need to have psychiatrists and psychologists on the board. It will not be the Government that will be nominating them. Rather, they will be nominated by their respective professional bodies. However, the Minister will ultimately appoint. A person will be nominated by the Irish Prison Service, the Garda and the Probation Service. People may be concerned that these are all entities that are under the control of the Department of Justice and Equality, but the days of a Minister trying to influence the appointment of individuals to boards such as this are long gone. Although some people may have concerns about the fact that the Department will have some level of indirect control over it, I do not share those concerns.

In the Bill as originally drafted, I included a member of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, IPRT, which is a body that does a great deal of excellent work on behalf of prisoners. I specifically identified it in the legislation as being an entity that should nominate a person for membership of the Parole Board. That is not included, but I note that there will be a representative from an NGO that specialises in advocating for the rights of persons in prisons. Being realistic, the IPRT will fulfil that function in any event. I urge the Minister, who will have the executive power in respect of appointing that person, to do so and to concentrate on that body.

The rest of the amendments are standard amendments in language favoured by the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers regarding the term of appointment, resignation and removal of members. This is standard in much legislation and I am happy to go along with those amendments.

I am happy to support each of the amendments in this grouping apart from amendment No. 18. It is correct to have a certain level of flexibility in the number of members, with between 12 and 15 being permissible. Many of the categories of appointee identified are appropriate for membership of the board. In some respects, these proposals closely resemble what was outlined by Deputy O'Callaghan in the Bill previously. However, there are several key differences. One is that the original Bill proposed that panel convenors be appointed by the Public Appointments Service. The removal of that provision is a regressive step, which is why I do not support the amendment.

Deputy O'Callaghan identified a point regarding agencies of the Department of Justice and Equality and people appointed directly by the Minister. I do not believe that the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, would have in any way used either the offices or the appointees to try to influence this process. However, the point is that this is similar to the situation for Caesar's wife, in that the Department must not only be above reproach, but seen to be so. The involvement of the Public Appointments Service is important for the confidence of those going before the parole board to seek parole and their families, as well as the interests of the victims of crime. It is important that the board is as independent as possible and is seen to be so. For that reason, the proposal in the amendment is a regressive step.

In addition, the amendment removes subsection 8(2)(h) of the Bill, which provides for the inclusion of a representative nominated by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and that is a regressive step.

On a minor drafting issue, I may be wrong, but section10(3)(a)(i) as proposed in amendment No. 18 should include the word "or" in order to be clear that it is one of the three conditions, rather than the first and one of the latter two. I am being fussy, but my substantive point stands.

This is my first time to speak on the Bill. My colleague Clare Daly, who has departed from the Dáil, usually dealt with such legislation. I am sure she was involved in dealing with this Bill. I congratulate Deputy O'Callaghan on bringing it forward. It is time to put this matter on a statutory footing.

On the amendments, I am glad that the proposal I made in amendment No. 31 has been taken on board and that the reference to the Irish Penal Reform Trust has been removed from the relevant section. It specifically asked for that to be done, and I welcome that it was.

The Minister stated that he is open to reviewing the Act, which we will come to. If that is the case and he is open to it being reviewed on many levels in two years, I will support the amendments in this grouping.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has been mentioned and given great praise. It does tremendous work, but it worries about funding from year to year. If we are seriously interested in it and think that it such a good organisation that it should be nominated and mentioned in legislation when it does not wish to be so nominated or mentioned, perhaps we should consider the level of funding it receives in order to ensure that it continues its good work.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Membership of Board

10. (1) Subject to this section, the Board shall consist of such and so many members, including the chairperson, not being fewer than 12 or more than 15 in number, as the Minister may consider appropriate.

(2) The members of the Board shall be appointed by the Minister.

(3) Of the persons appointed to be members of the Board—

(a) one shall be—

(i) a judge, or a retired judge, of the Circuit Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court,

(ii) a practising barrister or practising solicitor of not less than 10 years’ standing, or

(iii) a legal academic of not less than 10 years’ standing who has been employed as such for a continuous period of not less than 2 years immediately before such appointment, nominated for appointment by the Chief Justice,

(b) one shall be a practising barrister of not less than 5 years’ standing nominated for appointment by the General Council of the Bar of Ireland,

(c) one shall be a practising solicitor of not less than 5 years’ standing nominated for appointment by the Law Society of Ireland,

(d) two shall be psychiatrists nominated for appointment by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland,

(e) two shall be psychologists nominated for appointment by the Psychological Society of Ireland,

(f) one shall be a member of staff of the Irish Prison Service nominated by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service,

(g) one shall be a serving member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent nominated by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(h) one shall be a member of staff of the Probation Service nominated by the Director of the Probation Service,

(i) one shall be a representative of a non-governmental organisation that specialises in advocating for the rights of persons serving terms of imprisonment in prisons or the amelioration of conditions in prisons, and

(j) the remaining member or members shall be such other person or persons as, in the opinion of the Minister, has or have sufficient experience and expertise relating to matters connected with the functions of the Board to enable him, her or them to make a substantial contribution to the effective performance of those functions.

(4) The person appointed as a member of the Board pursuant to the nomination of the Chief Justice under subsection (3)(a) shall act as chairperson of the Board.

(5) In appointing a person to be a member of the Board, the Minister shall satisfy himself or herself that the person has—

(a) a knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and

(b) the ability to make a reasonable and balanced assessment of—

(i) the risk a person serving a sentence of imprisonment might present to the safety and security of members of the public if released on parole,

(ii) the extent to which such a person has been rehabilitated and would, if released on parole, be capable of reintegrating into society, and

(iii) whether it is appropriate in all the circumstances that such a person be released on parole.

(6) In nominating persons for appointment under this section, a nominating person or body referred to in subsection (3), other than the Chief Justice—

(a) shall—

(i) subject to subparagraph (ii), nominate a primary nominee of one sex and a substitute nominee of the other sex, and

(ii) in the case of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland or the Psychological Society of Ireland, where the two members of the Board to be nominated by the body under subsection (3)(d) or (e), as the case may be, are nominated at the same time, nominate one man and one woman,

and

(b) shall satisfy itself that its nominees meet the criteria specified in subsection (5).

(7) In appointing members of the Board, the Minister shall—

(a) have regard to the objective of there being no fewer than 6 members who are women and no fewer than 6 members who are men, and

(b) appoint a substitute nominee referred to in subsection (6)(a) rather than a primary nominee of the nominating body concerned, but only where necessary in order to achieve that objective.

(8) In this section—

“Director of the Probation Service” means the person appointed by the Minister to the post of Director of the Probation Service;

“legal academic” means a permanent member of the academic staff of an educational establishment who—

(a) teaches one or more subjects in the field of law, or

(b) carries out, or supervises the carrying out of, research in one or more such subjects, whether or not in conjunction with the carrying on by him or her of administrative duties relevant to that teaching, research or supervision;

“educational establishment” means—

(a) a university to which the Universities Act 1997 applies,

(b) the Honorable Society of King’s Inns, or

(c) the Law Society of Ireland,

and in computing, for the purposes of this section, any period that a person must have served as a legal academic, successive employment of the person by 2 or more of any of the foregoing educational establishments shall suffice.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Term of appointment of members of Board

11. (1) Subject to this section and section 12, a member of the Board shall hold office for the period of 4 years from the date of his or her appointment.

(2) (a) Of the members who are first appointed to be members of the Board, other than the chairperson, 7 members, who shall be selected by the drawing of lots by the chairperson at a meeting of the Board to be held for that purpose as soon as may be after the establishment day, shall hold office for a term of 2 years from the date of their appointment.

(b) A member of the Board may be selected as one of the 7 members of the Board referred to in paragraph (a) notwithstanding the fact that he or she is not present at the meeting of the Board referred to in that paragraph.

(3) Each member of the Board shall be paid such remuneration (if any) and allowance for expenses (if any) as the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, from time to time determine.

(4) Subject to subsection (5), a member of the Board whose term of office expires by the effluxion of time shall be eligible for reappointment as a member of the Board.

(5) A member of the Board who has served two terms of office shall not be eligible for reappointment to the Board.

(6) (a) Where a member of the Board dies, resigns, ceases to be qualified for office and ceases to hold office or is removed from office, the Minister may appoint a person to be a member of the Board to fill the casual vacancy so occasioned in the same manner as the member of the Board who occasioned the casual vacancy was appointed.

(b) A person appointed to be a member pursuant to paragraph (a) shall hold office for that period of the term of office of the member who occasioned the casual vacancy concerned that remains unexpired at the date of his or her appointment and shall, subject to subsection (5), be eligible for reappointment as a member of the Board on the expiry of the said period.

(c) A term of office of the Board of any duration arising from an appointment under this subsection shall be regarded as a term of office for the purposes of subsection (5).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Resignation, removal, disqualification, ineligibility etc. for office of member of Board

12. (1) A member of the Board may resign from office by giving notice in writing to the Minister of his or her resignation and the resignation shall take effect on the day on which the Minister receives the notice.

(2) The Minister may, at any time, remove a member of the Board from office if the Minister is satisfied that—

(a) the member has become incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions,

(b) the member has committed stated misbehaviour, or

(c) the removal of the member appears to the Minister to be necessary for the effective performance by the Board of its functions.

(3) If a member of the Board is removed from office in accordance with subsection (2), the Minister shall provide the member with a statement of reasons for the removal.

(4) A member of the Board shall cease to be qualified for office and shall cease to hold office as such a member if he or she—

(a) is convicted on indictment of an offence,

(b) is convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty,

(c) has a declaration under section 819 of the Companies Act 2014 made against him or her or is deemed to be subject to such a declaration by virtue of Chapter 5 of Part 14 of that Act, or

(d) is subject or is deemed to be subject to a disqualification order, within the meaning of Chapter 4 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014, whether by virtue of that Chapter or any other provision of that Act.

(5) Where a member of the Board—

(a) ceases to hold the office or position by virtue of which he or she was eligible to become a member of the Board,

(b) is nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann,

(c) is elected as a member of either House of the Oireachtas or to be a member of the European Parliament, or

(d) is regarded pursuant to Part XIII of the Second Schedule to the European Parliament Elections Act 1997 as having been elected to be a member of the European Parliament, he or she shall thereupon cease to be a member of the Board.

(6) A person who is for the time being—

(a) entitled under the Standing Orders of either House of the Oireachtas to sit therein, or

(b) a member of the European Parliament,

shall, while he or she is so entitled or is such a member, as the case may be, be disqualified for membership of the Board.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 21 to 24 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Powers of Board

13. (1) The Board shall have all such powers as are necessary or expedient for the purposes of its functions, including—

(a) to direct that a report in writing relating to the relevant person be prepared by such person as it considers appropriate,

(b) where it is considering an application for parole or the revocation of a parole order, to assign a legal representative to the relevant person unless he or she proposes to engage one,

(c) to meet with a relevant person for the purposes of interviewing him or her or receiving oral submissions from him or her or his or her legal representative,

(d) to receive written submissions from a relevant person or his or her legal representative,

(e) where it is considering an application for parole or the revocation of a parole order, to assign a legal representative to the relevant victim where he or she wishes to make submissions to the Board, unless he or she proposes to engage one,

(f) to meet with a relevant victim for the purposes of receiving oral submissions from him or her or his or her legal representative,

(g) to receive written submissions from a relevant victim or his or her legal representative, and

(h) to apply to the Courts Service for a transcript of a court hearing which was held for the purposes of the consideration or imposition by the court of a sentence on a relevant person.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1)(a), the Board shall, for the purposes of considering an application for parole, the variation of a condition attaching to, or the date of release specified in, a parole order, or the revocation of a parole order, have the power to direct that a report in writing in respect of the relevant person be prepared and furnished to it by or on behalf of—

(a) the Irish Prison Service,

(b) in the case of a parole applicant, the person in charge of—

(i) a designated centre,

(ii) a children detention school, or

(iii) any institution other than a prison,

in which the parole applicant has, during the course of the term of imprisonment in respect of which he or she is being considered for parole, been detained,

(c) the Probation Service,

(d) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(e) a psychologist,

(f) a person in a place outside the State who is entitled under the law of that place to practise psychology,

(g) a psychiatrist,

(h) a person in a place outside the State who is entitled under the law of that place to practise medicine in the field of psychiatry or child and adolescent psychiatry,

(i) a medical practitioner, or

(j) a person in a place outside the State who is entitled under the law of that place to practise medicine.

(3) Where the Board directs that a report be prepared pursuant to this section, it shall specify in its direction the matters to be dealt with in the report in respect of the relevant person which matters may include any one or more of the following:

(a) details of the sentence imposed on the relevant person and the manner in which it has been served to date;

(b) the conduct of the relevant person;

(c) in the case of a parole applicant—

(i) the risk or likelihood, if he or she were to be released on parole, of him or her—

(I) committing another criminal offence,

(II) failing to comply with conditions attaching to the parole order, or

(III) presenting an undue risk to the safety and security of members of the public (including the relevant victim),

(ii) the extent to which the person has been rehabilitated and would, if released on parole, be capable of reintegrating into society, or

(iii) whether it is appropriate in all the circumstances that such a person be released on parole;

(d) such other matter as the Board may consider necessary to assist it in its consideration of the application for parole or of the variation or revocation of the parole order, as the case may be.

(4) Where the Board directs a person or body referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of subsection (2) to prepare a report pursuant to that subsection, the person or body referred to in the direction shall, insofar as is possible, prepare such a report and furnish it to the Board as soon as practicable.

(5) Where the Board applies to the Courts Service for a transcript of a court hearing pursuant to subsection (1)(h), the Courts Service shall, insofar as is possible, provide a copy of the transcript to the Board as soon as practicable.

(6) The reasonable costs of a person who is directed under this section to prepare a report may be paid by the Board out of moneys at the disposal of the Board.

(7) A meeting between the Board and a relevant person may be conducted—

(a) in such place as the Board considers appropriate, including, where the person is detained in a prison, in that prison, and

(b) by such members of the Board, not fewer than 2 in number, as the chairperson may, in his or her discretion, determine.

(8) A meeting between the Board and a relevant victim may be conducted—

(a) in such place as the Board considers appropriate, and

(b) by such members of the Board, not fewer than 2 in number, as the chairperson may, in his or her discretion, determine.

(9) In this section and in section 14, “relevant person” means—

(a) where the Board is considering an application for parole, the parole applicant to whom the application relates, or

(b) where the Board is considering the variation of a condition attaching to, or the date of release specified in, a parole order, or the revocation of a parole order, the parolee to whom the order relates.”.

The amendments in this grouping deal with the powers and procedures of the board, including how it conducts its meetings and gathers information to assist it in the making of a decision.

Amendment No. 21 deals with the powers of the board. The Bill as it stands provides that the board would sit in panels of three to five members to consider applications for parole. Upon careful examination, it became apparent that there were legal and policy concerns with this approach, mainly relating to consistency in the composition of these panels, how the full range of expertise of the board could be brought to bear in every case and that the panels could lead to a disparity of treatment between different parole applications. I decided that all decisions should be made by the full board, although meetings and information gathering can still be conducted by a subgroup of the board to be determined by its chair.

The Bill also envisages two ways in which decisions on parole could be made, namely, a review and a hearing, with the hearing being somewhat more formal in terms of process. I decided there should be a single consistent process that is robust and transparent, although I am anxious to ensure that it is not overly formal. As the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, outlined when the Bill was discussed on Second Stage, a formal hearing process could become adversarial. I am keen to ensure that the new process will be closer to that of the current parole board, albeit with some important differences. The board would have the power to obtain reports about the prisoner. For example, it can direct the Irish Prison Service to provide a report on the prisoner's behaviour in prison, engagement with treatment and involvement or otherwise with education programmes. It can obtain psychological reports in respect of the prisoner. The board can meet with the prisoner, interview him or her and provide him or her an opportunity to put forward a case for being granted parole. This meeting or interview can be conducted by two or more members of the board and may take place at the prison. All of this will help the board to determine whether the person poses a risk to the public, or has been rehabilitated.

At this stage of the process, the victim will be entitled to make an oral submission to the board should he or she so wish. Under the current system, the victim is entitled to write to the board and the board takes these submissions very seriously. However, I know that some victims would prefer an opportunity to address the board personally, and it is important that we give favourable consideration towards providing for that.

Legal representation and legal aid will be provided for the parole applicant and the victim in the parole process. The board will be making decisions which have a significant impact on a prisoner's liberty. Many prisoners will have limited capacity to make their case. Legal representation for the applicant was a recommendation of the final report of the strategic review on penal policy published in 2014. As I stated, the victim will also be entitled to legal representation and legal aid. This will help ensure that the balance is maintained between the need of the applicant and the requirements of the victim.

Amendment No. 23 deals with the practical arrangements for meetings of the board, the matter of a quorum and other procedural details.

On a matter of clarification on the legal representation, the provision of such for the victim and the applicant is a feature of the Bill in its current form. The amendment as proposed provides for legal aid to be given for that purpose.

Amendment No. 22 provides for the board to make its own procedures under the Act, subject to stipulations. In particular, there is a requirement for these procedures to be fair.

There are certain matters that the board is obliged to take into consideration.

These amendments will ensure the board can determine procedural detail such as timeframes and the manner in which notifications are to be made. This allows for the less formal structures of which I speak and for a degree of flexibility and practicality. There will be limits on the discretion of the board. For example, the board will have to allow for legal representation. It will have to notify the victim of consideration of an application of parole and give the victim an explanation of how he or she will participate in the process. The board will also provide the parole applicant with the information it will consider in reaching a decision.

I have referred already to amendment No. 23.

Amendment No. 24 provides that members of the board and the chief executive will not be liable for damages for the performance in good faith of the functions of the board.

These are probably the most significant amendments that have been tabled by the Government. They will change the Bill as originally drafted. Under the Bill as passed on Second Stage - it went through Committee Stage as well - there were to be panels and panel convenors. Under the legislation as originally drafted, there were to be reviews and hearings. Reviews would take place on the basis of a paper analysis of the application. These would have been appropriate for less controversial applications, for those that could be dealt with by the Parole Board without too much controversy or difficulty. Hearings were to take place, however, where an issue arose requiring greater deliberation. Under the original legislation, the board was to sit in different panels. Of the board's 15 members or thereabouts, a panel of three to five members would be constituted to hear a parole application and it could conduct a review or direct that there be a hearing.

I had the benefit of the expert advice that the Minister has available to him in his Department. I had an informative meeting with officials from the Department, for which I thank the Minister and the officials. They provided me with an insight into the thinking of the Department and the reasons those responsible thought they needed to change the legislation.

I appreciate that the process of different panels within the Parole Board could become complicated. It could make it difficult for the board to make determinations based on the assembled qualifications that exist within the board. I appreciate and understand the logic of moving away from the panel criteria and allowing the board to operate as one entity. I suppose it will mean the board will be able to set its procedures for reviews and hearings. That is a matter for the board to determine. I am supportive of these amendments. I recognise the Minister's logic in putting them forward.

As the Minister mentioned, the original Bill provided for legal representation. It is an important that the person who is seeking parole has an opportunity to put forward his or her best case. Similarly, as the Minister has indicated, victims of crime are to be involved. This is at the heart of the Bill. I believe they should have a say in whether a life sentence should in practice be reduced significantly. It is beneficial that there is legal representation for families affected. I welcome the fact that the Minister has now provided that those families will not have merely abstract legal representation but, rather, they will get the benefit of legal aid so that they can be heard. I also see the logic of the requirement that if one party is to be given legal assistance, the other must be given assistance too. I will support these amendments.

I understand the rationale the Minister has given for the amendments. It potentially ensures a certain level of uniformity to have things done through the board rather than through panels as originally proposed.

The point on hearing the voices of the victims of crime is right. It is important that those seeking parole have the right to put their case forward. We have discussed this in several Bills in recent times. I expect the Minister was discussing the matter in the Seanad earlier today as well. The voices of the victims of crime during the past 200 years have become more marginal. We need to be conscious of ensuring that they have more of a participatory stake in the justice system. It is right that they have a say. It is right that they have legal representation. A balancing of rights must be struck but I believe it is right and proper that they have their say and that they have legal aid. I support the amendments.

I am seeking the guidance of the Chair from a technical point of view. I have two specific amendments on the rights of victims. These are amendments Nos. 48 and 29, which relate to the right of victims to information. Forgive me if I am way off track, but I am seeking to buttress the rights of victims in respect of notification. There is a specific request in my amendment that we would have regard to the Victims of Crime Act 2017 in the context of information a victim would be entitled to. If I am off track with my intervention now, I beg the Acting Chairman's forgiveness. I do not have on the list of schedules sent to me an articulation of where my amendments sit in the restructuring of the Bill. I trust that makes sense.

I am told Amendment No. 48 will be taken on its own when we reach it.

That will be at 11.30 p.m.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Procedures of Board

14. (1) The procedure of the Board in relation to the exercise of its functions shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be such as shall be determined by the Board, and the Board shall, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, make provision for the following:

(a) the making, with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, of a scheme or schemes for the granting of legal aid to—

(i) parole applicants,

(ii) parolees, and

(iii) relevant victims who wish to make a submission to the Board,

for the purposes of the consideration by the Board of an application for parole or of the revocation of a parole order;

(b) giving the relevant person (within the meaning of section 13(9)*) and his or her legal representative a copy of any document furnished to the Board by any person other than the relevant person, and an indication in writing of the nature and source of any information relating to the matter which has come to notice in the course of the application or consideration, as the case may be, other than where the Board is of the opinion that exceptional circumstances exist that warrant such a document or indication, as the case may be, not being so given;

(c) enabling the relevant person and his or her legal representative to attend a meeting with the Board as provided for under section 13(1)(c);

(d) enabling the relevant person to present his or her case to the Board in person or through a legal representative;

(e) the persons who are required to be notified of any action taken under this Act and the manner in which they are to be so notified, including the notification of the relevant victim of an application for parole, which notification shall include an explanation of the process by which a person is considered by the Board for parole and details of how the victim may participate in that process;

(f) enabling the relevant victim to make submissions to the Board, whether in person, through his or her legal representative, or in writing—

(i) where the Board is considering an application for parole or the revocation of a parole order, or

(ii) where the Board considers it appropriate, where the Board is considering the variation of a condition attaching to, or the date of release in, a parole order;

(g) requiring the parole applicant to be given a copy of the draft decision of the Board in an application for parole and enabling him or her to make written submissions on the draft prior to its finalisation;

(h) specifying the time periods within which anything is required to be done under this Act, including the time period within which the Board shall make a determination on an application for parole;

(i) specifying conditions, where it considers it appropriate, to which all parolees, or a specified class of parolees, shall be subject;

(j) the keeping of statistical and other records relating to the exercise by it of its functions.

(2) In determining its procedures under subsection (1), the Board shall have regard to the need for it to exercise its functions in an effective manner and in accordance with fair procedures.

(3) The Board shall publish procedures determined by it under this section in such manner as it considers appropriate.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Meetings

15. (1) The Board shall hold such and so many meetings as may be necessary for the due performance of its functions.

(2) The quorum for a meeting of the Board shall be 8.

(3) At a meeting of the Board—

(a) the chairperson shall, if present, be chairperson of the meeting, and

(b) if and so long as the chairperson is not present or if the office of chairperson is vacant, the members of the Board present shall choose one of their members to act as chairperson of the meeting.

(4) Each member of the Board, including the chairperson, present at a meeting of the Board shall have a vote.

(5) At a meeting of the Board, a question on which a vote is required shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the members of the Board present and voting on the question and, in the case of an equal division of votes, the chairperson of the meeting shall have a second and casting vote.

(6) Subject to subsection (2), the Board may act notwithstanding one or more vacancies among its members.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Liability of Board and chief executive

16. Neither—

(a) the Board, a member or former member of the Board, nor

(b) the chief executive or a former chief executive,

shall be liable in damages in respect of any act done or omitted to be done by it or him or her in the performance, or purported performance, of its or his or her functions under this Act, unless the act or omission concerned was done in bad faith.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 25 to 30, inclusive, and 32 and 33 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Staff of Board

17. (1) The Minister may appoint such and so many of his or her officers as he or she may determine to be members of staff of the Board.

(2) The terms and conditions of service of a member of the staff of the Board shall be such as may be determined from time to time by the Minister with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

(3) There shall be paid by the Minister to the members of the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as, from time to time, the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, determines.

(4) The members of the staff of the Board shall perform their functions under the direction and control of the chief executive.

(5) Appointments under this section shall be subject to the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 and the Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 to 2005.”.

We are discussing amendments Nos. 25 to 33, inclusive. In short, they cover the obligations on the chief executive and staff of the board. Amendment No. 25 provides that the staff will be civil servants appointed by the Minister under the usual terms and conditions of such appointments. Amendments Nos. 26 to 30, inclusive, insert a series of new sections providing for a chief executive of the board. The role of the chief executive will be to manage and control generally the board staff, administration and business. The chief executive will have to prepare the accounts for audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The chief executive is to be accountable to the Committee of Public Accounts and other Oireachtas committees. The amendments also set out the requirements for an annual report.

I will wait for Deputy Connolly to make a contribution on amendment No. 31. Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 deal with sections 12 and 13.

These amendments seek to set out the statutory regime in respect of the staff and the chief executive of the board. I am sure neither the Minister, nor I or anyone else wants this to turn into a large quango.

I do not believe that will be the case. The Parole Board currently operates efficiently on limited resources and I do not see any reason it should have to become much bigger as a statutory body than it currently is as a non-statutory body. The workload will increase over the years and it will be necessary for the board to be properly resourced. For that reason, it is appropriate that we set out procedures and rules for the staff and chief executive of the board and that the Minister will be able to appoint staff to it. In doing so, I have no doubt that he will liaise with the members of the board on what the full requirements of their workload are.

Amendment No. 27 deals with superannuation. Amendments Nos. 28, 29, and 30 deal with the accountability of the chief executive to the Committee of Public Accounts and other Oireachtas committees. All Members of the Oireachtas will know that when the chief executive of the Parole Board comes before any Oireachtas committee, they will not be able to ask him questions about individual parole cases. I know that will not happen, but I am pleased to see it set out in the legislation that the function of the Committee of Public Accounts is to ensure the Parole Board's moneys are being appropriately and properly spent.

Deputy Connolly's amendment No. 31 has been overtaken by events as we have already amended the section dealing with membership of the board and the reference to the Irish Penal Reform Trust has been removed. It is a matter for Deputy Connolly but I do not think it is necessary to push her amendment since the relevant provision has already been changed. I will support these amendments.

I have no difficulty with the amendments, which generally relate to the structure, accountability and answerability of the Parole Board, the manner in which the chief executive and board are accountable to the Oireachtas, the proper running of the board and such matters. As I have the opportunity, it is appropriate that I address as part of the grouping the proposed deletion of section 15, which I do not support. Given that the panel structure has been removed, we would have to amend the wording of section 15 in the Seanad. It is appropriate, however, to provide for some form of review within a relatively short period of a parole decision, although it would not have to be done in the manner provided for in the section. It is reasonable to have reviews because people deserve an opportunity to have parole decisions looked over again. In that context, I will oppose the deletion of section 15.

Amendment No. 31 has been dealt with and overtaken, as Deputy O'Callaghan noted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Chief executive of Board

18. (1) There shall be a chief executive officer of the Board (in this Act referred to as the “chief executive”) who, subject to subsections (2) and (3), shall be appointed by the Board with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

(2) The Minister may, before the establishment day, designate a person to be appointed to be the first chief executive of the Board.

(3) If, immediately before the establishment day, a person stands designated by the Minister under subsection (2), the Board shall appoint that person to be the first chief executive.

(4) The chief executive shall hold office under a written contract of service for such period as is specified in the contract, not exceeding 5 years, and subject to such terms and conditions (including terms and conditions relating to remuneration) as are

specified in the contract, as may be determined by the Board with the approval of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

(5) A contract referred to in subsection (4) may, at the discretion of the Board and with the consent of the Minister, be renewed, provided the aggregate of the periods for which the chief executive holds office thereunder shall not exceed 10 years.

(6) The chief executive shall—

(a) implement the policies, procedures and decisions of the Board,

(b) manage and control generally the Board’s staff, administration and business,

(c) be responsible to the Board for the performance of his or her functions, and

(d) perform such other functions (if any) as may be required by the Board to be performed by him or her or as may be authorised under this Act.

(7) The chief executive may be removed or suspended from office by the Board, with the consent of the Minister, for stated reasons.

(8) The chief executive shall not be a member of the Board but may, in accordance with procedures determined by the Board, attend meetings of the Board and shall be entitled to speak at and give advice at such meetings.

(9) The chief executive shall provide the Board with such information, including financial information, in respect of the performance of the chief executive’s functions as the Board may require.

(10) The chief executive shall not hold any other office or position in respect of which remuneration is payable, or carry on any business, trade or profession, without the consent of the Board given with the approval of the Minister.

(11) Such of the functions of the chief executive as the chief executive may specify may, with the consent of the Board, be delegated to such member or members of the staff of the Board as the chief executive may authorise for that purpose, and that member or those members of staff shall be accountable to the chief executive for the performance of the functions so delegated.

(12) The chief executive shall be accountable to the Board for the performance of functions delegated by him or her in accordance with subsection (11).

(13) If the chief executive—

(a) dies, resigns, becomes disqualified for or is removed from office, or

(b) is for any reason temporarily unable to continue to perform his or her functions, the Board may designate such member or members of the staff of the Board as it considers appropriate to perform the functions of the chief executive until—

(i) in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph (a), a new chief executive is appointed in accordance with this section,

(ii) in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph (b), the chief executive is able to resume the performance of his or her functions, or

(iii) the Board decides to revoke or alter a designation made under this subsection.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Superannuation

19. (1) The Board may, with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, make a scheme or schemes for the granting of superannuation benefits to or in respect of any person appointed chief executive who does not become a member of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme.

(2) A scheme under this section shall fix the time and conditions of retirement of all persons to or in respect of whom superannuation benefits are payable under the scheme or schemes and different times and conditions may be fixed in respect of different classes of persons.

(3) The Board may, with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, make a scheme amending a scheme under this section including a scheme under this subsection.

(4) A scheme under this section shall, if approved by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, be carried out by the Board in accordance with its terms.

(5) If any dispute arises as to the claim of any person to, or the amount of, any superannuation benefit payable pursuant to a scheme or schemes under this section, such dispute shall be submitted to the Minister who shall refer it to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, whose decision shall be final.

(6) No superannuation benefits shall be granted by the Board to or in respect of a person on ceasing to be the chief executive otherwise than—

(a) in accordance with a scheme or schemes under this section, or

(b) with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

(7) A scheme under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the scheme is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House has sat after the scheme is laid before it, the scheme shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.

(8) Subsection (7) shall, with all necessary modifications, apply to an amendment to a scheme under this section as it applies to a scheme under this section.

(9) In this section—

“amending”, in relation to a scheme under this section, includes revoking the scheme; “superannuation benefit” means any pension, gratuity or other allowance payable to or in respect of a person ceasing to be the chief executive.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

28. In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Accounts and audit

20. (1) The chief executive, under the direction of the Board, shall keep in such form and in respect of such accounting periods as may be approved of by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, all proper and usual accounts of moneys received and spent by the Board, including an income and expenditure account and a balance sheet.

(2) The accounts of the Board shall be approved by it as soon as is practicable, but not later than 3 months after the end of the accounting period to which the accounts relate, and submitted by the Board to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit.

(3) A copy of the accounts and report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts shall be presented to the Board and the Minister as soon as is practicable, and the Minister shall cause a copy of the accounts and report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Accountability of chief executive to Public Accounts Committee

21. (1) The chief executive shall, whenever required in writing by the Committee of Dáil Éireann established under the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann to examine and report to Dáil Éireann on the appropriation accounts and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General, give evidence to that Committee on—

(a) the economy and efficiency of the Board in the use of its resources,

(b) the systems, procedures and practices employed by the Board for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of its operations, and

(c) any matter affecting the Board referred to in a special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General under section 11(2) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 or in any other report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (in so far as it relates to a matter specified in paragraph (a) or (b)) that is laid before Dáil Éireann.

(2) In the performance of his or her duties under this section, the chief executive shall not question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or a

Minister of the Government or on the merits of the objectives of such a policy.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 7, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Accountability of chief executive to other Oireachtas Committees

22. (1) In this section “Committee” means a Committee appointed by either House of the Oireachtas or jointly by both Houses of the Oireachtas, other than—

(a) the Committee referred to in section 21,

(b) the Committee on Members’ Interests of Dáil Éireann or the Committee on Members’ Interests of Seanad Éireann, or

(c) a subcommittee of a committee referred to in paragraph (a) or (b).

(2) Subject to subsection (3), the chief executive shall, at the request in writing of a Committee, attend before it to give account for the general administration of the Board.

(3) The chief executive shall not be required to give account before a Committee for any matter which is or has been or may at a future time be the subject of proceedings before a court or tribunal in the State.

(4) Where the chief executive is of the opinion that a matter in respect of which he or she is requested to give an account before a Committee is a matter to which subsection (3) applies, he or she shall inform the Committee of that opinion and the reasons for the opinion and, unless the information is conveyed to the Committee at a time when the chief executive is before it, the information shall be so conveyed in writing.

(5) Where the chief executive has informed a Committee of his or her opinion in accordance with subsection (4) and the Committee does not withdraw the request referred to in subsection (2) in so far as it relates to a matter the subject of that opinion—

(a) the chief executive may, not later than 21 days after being informed by the Committee of its decision not to do so, apply to the High Court in a summary manner for determination of the question whether the matter is one to which subsection (3) applies, or

(b) the Chairperson of the Committee may, on behalf of the Committee, make such an application, and the High Court shall determine the matter.

(6) Pending the determination of an application under subsection (5), the chief executive shall not attend before the Committee to give account for the matter the subject of the application.

(7) If the High Court determines that the matter concerned is one to which subsection (3) applies, the Committee shall withdraw the request referred to in subsection (2), but if the High Court determines that subsection (3) does not apply, the chief executive shall attend before the Committee to give account for the matter.

(8) In the performance of his or her duties under this section, the chief executive shall not question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or a Minister of the Government or on the merits of the objectives of such a policy.”.

SECTION 17

Amendment agreed to.
Section 7 deleted.
Amendment No. 31 not moved.
Sections 8 to 14, inclusive, deleted.
Question, "That section 15 be deleted", put and declared carried.
Section 16 deleted.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 16, line 13, after “report” to insert “(in this section referred to as the “annual report”)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 16, to delete lines 16 to 20 and substitute the following:

“(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), if but for this subsection, the first report under this section would relate to a period of less than 6 months, the report shall relate to that period and to the year immediately following that period and shall be made as soon as may be, but not later than 6 months after the end of that year.

(3) The Board shall ensure that, as soon as practicable after copies of the annual report are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the report is published in such manner as the Board considers appropriate.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Amendments Nos. 34 to 36, inclusive, and 50 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Eligibility for Parole

24. (1) Subject to this section and section 5(2), the following persons shall be eligible for parole:

(a) a person serving a sentence of imprisonment for life who has served at least 12 years of that sentence;

(b) a person serving a sentence of imprisonment of a term equivalent to or longer than such term as is prescribed in regulations made by the Minister under subsection (3), who has served at least such portion of the sentence as may be prescribed by the Minister in accordance with that subsection.

(2) Subsection (1) shall apply to a person regardless of whether the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person was imposed prior to or after the commencement of this section.

(3) The Minister may, for the purposes of subsection (1)(b), following consultation with the Board, by regulations prescribe—

(a) a term of imprisonment of not less than 8 years, and

(b) the portion of such a term to be served by a person prior to becoming eligible for parole.

(4) In making regulations under subsection (3), the Minister shall have regard to—

(a) the objective of ensuring that there is an incentive for persons serving sentences of imprisonment to be rehabilitated,

(b) the availability to persons serving sentences of imprisonment of such a term of other forms of early release from prison and the extent to which the objective referred to in paragraph (a) is achieved by such other forms of early release,

(c) the desirability of the early release from prison of a person being decided upon by an independent body,

(d) the desirability of equality of treatment with regard to eligibility for consideration for parole, insofar as is possible, between persons serving sentences of imprisonment for life and persons serving sentences of imprisonment for a determinate term, and between persons serving sentences of imprisonment for determinate terms of differing lengths, and

(e) the capacity of the Board to consider an increased number of applications for parole.

(5) Where a person has made an application for parole and the application has been refused by the Board under section 30, the person shall not be eligible again for parole prior to the date specified in the decision of the Board pursuant to subsection (1)(b) of that section.

(6) Where a parole order relating to a person has been revoked under section 33, the person shall not be eligible again for parole prior to the date specified in the decision of the Board pursuant to subsection (5)(b)(iii) of that section.

(7) A person who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment and has been transferred to a designated centre pursuant to section 15 of the Act of 2006 shall not be eligible for parole while he or she is detained in the designated centre.

(8) Where a person has been sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment to be served concurrently, the eligibility of the person for parole shall be determined by reference to the longest sentence being served by the person.

(9) Where a person has been sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment, each of determinate length, to be served consecutively, the eligibility of the person for parole shall be determined by reference to the cumulative length of the terms of imprisonment.

(10) Where a person has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life and one or more terms of imprisonment of determinate length to be served consecutively with the

term of imprisonment for life, the person shall be eligible for parole when he or she has served 12 years of the sentence of imprisonment for life.

(11) Where a person is serving a minimum term of imprisonment within the meaning of section 27C of the Firearms Act 1964, he or she shall not be eligible for parole before the expiry of such minimum term.

(12) Where a person is serving a sentence of imprisonment under section 27(3A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, in respect of which the court specified a minimum term of imprisonment to be served by the person pursuant to subsection (3C) or (3F) of that section, he or she shall not be eligible for parole before the expiry of such minimum term.

(13) Where a person is serving a term of imprisonment for an offence to which section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1990 applies, he or she shall not be eligible for parole before the expiry of a minimum period of imprisonment to be served by the person specified under section 4 of that Act.

(14) Where a person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in accordance with section 25(1) of the Criminal Justice 2007 in respect of a subsequent offence within the meaning of that section, he or she shall not be eligible for parole before the expiry of the minimum term of imprisonment specified by the court in accordance with that subsection.

(15) Where a person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in accordance with section 58(1) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 in respect of a subsequent offence within the meaning of that section, he or she shall not be eligible for parole before the expiry of the minimum term of imprisonment specified by the court in accordance with that subsection.”.

These amendments deal with eligibility for parole and how an application is made. Members will see that Part 3 of the Bill deals with the parole process. Due to the Bill's move away from the distinction between reviews and hearings, as well as for drafting reasons, it was necessary to replace this Part in its entirety. However, I am keen to ensure that I have retained the essence of what Deputy O'Callaghan intended in bringing forward this Bill.

Amendment No. 34 inserts a new section relating to eligibility for parole. The Bill in its current form increases the length of time which must be served by a life sentence prisoner before being considered for parole. Members will be aware that prisoners serving a life sentence currently become eligible after they have served seven years. Under this Bill, that increases to 12 years and the amendments I am proposing will not affect that. I hope that increase will go some way towards limiting the ongoing trauma, distress and upset victims currently experience when they are notified that a prisoner is to be considered for parole seven years into his or her sentence. Eligibility to be considered by the new Parole Board will be limited initially to those serving life sentences, although the Minister will eventually be able to extend it to other prisoners serving long sentences through regulation. Parole is particularly relevant for life sentence prisoners because of the need, recognised by the European Court of Human Rights, to ensure prisoners are not detained indefinitely without any prospect of revisiting or review.

This amendment also states that prisoners who are serving mandatory minimum sentences are not eligible until the minimum period has been served. It sets out how eligibility is to be decided when a prisoner is serving a concurrent or consecutive sentences.

Amendment No. 35 provides that the Irish Prison Service will notify the board of who is eligible for parole and also if a person becomes ineligible, for example, if they are convicted of another offence.

Amendment No. 36 deals with the application process for parole. The board will notify the prisoner six months before he becomes eligible. The prisoner writes to the board to confirm that they wish to apply for parole.

I oppose amendment No. 50, assuming Deputy Connolly moves it. The process for applying for parole is dealt with in the new section 26. I invite the Deputy to accept these issues are dealt with in the new section but I agree that prisoners should be notified by the board when they are eligible for parole. This is the current practice. If we consider the new section 26, this is provided for in subsection (1). My contention is that the import of Opposition amendment No. 50 in the name of Deputy Connolly has in effect been provided for.

The Minister is correct when he said the essence of what was in Part 3 of my Bill has been retained in the amendments. Under Part 3 of the legislation, the parole process is set out. In the Bill, as originally drafted, we included sections dealing with guiding principles, criteria for parole, eligibility and consideration for parole. In many respects, the Minister's draft has it in a very similar format. There is eligibility for parole, which is dealt with in the new section 24. The Minister mentioned a point that was in the earlier draft I prepared which stated that people convicted of a life sentence would not eligible to apply for parole until they had served 12 years. That is an important provision and I welcome the fact the Minister has retained it in his proposal. We talk about the victims of crime and it is unfair on the family of somebody who has been murdered to be told after having served seven years the person who murdered their family member can apply for parole. An application for parole can start when a person has served seven years but in reality there is no prospect of that person getting parole. If we consider any of the decisions of the Parole Board, it is clear that nobody who is sentenced to life imprisonment gets parole after serving seven years. It also has the effect of misleading a person who is serving a life sentence into believing he or she has a prospect of getting out of prison after serving seven years. He or she does not. It is important we set on a statutory basis that one cannot apply for parole until such time as one has served 12 years, if one is sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Minister deals in amendment No. 35 with how a prisoner will be informed of his or her entitlement to apply for parole. We know from the new section 25 that the Prison Service will notify the board in writing of the eligibility of a person for parole and once the Irish Prison Service is informed of that the parole applicant shall be entitled to be informed of it so that he or she can bring forward their application for parole. That is a sensible way of doing it. It takes pressure off the prisoner in terms of trying to find out when they can apply for parole. Now a prisoner will be told by the Prison Service that he or she is eligible for parole and an application can be made. Section 26 sets out how the application for parole will arise. Section 27 deals with the decision on parole, which is an important decision. In the first instance, we will be only dealing with people who have life sentences imposed upon them. There are conflicting rights at stake. First, there is the right of the community to be protected, which is the fundamental priority. The system is stating that a person who is given a life sentence should go to prison for life but in reality that does not happen because we hold out the prospect of rehabilitation and redemption. After serving 12 years a person may apply for parole. It may be that in the vast majority of cases a person will not be granted parole having served 12 years. As the Parole Board currently operates, the likely time one must serve before one can get out from a life sentence is of the order of 18 years. We need to ensure the process is properly considered. I welcome the fact we will have a statutory regime in place so that the person applying for parole and the families of victims of murder can have a say in respect of it. I will be supporting these amendments.

As the Minister said, Deputy Connolly's amendment is not necessary because under the provision of the section I referenced there will be an obligation on the Prison Service to inform the Parole Board of when a prisoner is eligible for parole and the Parole Board must then tell the prisoner.

I accept my amendment is covered in section 26. It is important my proposal is included as it was not included originally. The onus is now on the Parole Board to inform the prisoner, and I welcome that. I will be guided by the Acting Chairman on this. I have a difficulty with the 12-year period. I have a later amendment proposing that the period be reduced to eight years. It is actually seven years. I will not be supporting the period of 12 years. I fully support the victim. The victim and the protection of the community must be foremost in this respect. I am not sure where the Deputy is coming from in this regard. The Parole Board annual report 2017 points out the difficulties on the ground. The report refers to the delays in the timeframes for the review of an individual serving a life sentence. There are major delays on the ground. The report states that such delays can be based on the Parole Board not receiving reports in a timely manner, delaying the complete dossier from being available, and-or the capacity within the Parole Board secretariat to administer the volume of cases. The report concludes that the current parole model is not efficient and requires change and states that hopefully, the new Parole Bill, which is due to be debated, will bring about substantial changes. The Parole Board is highlighting the problems on the ground and stating that the reviews cannot be done.

I agree fully with what Deputy O'Callaghan is trying to do with this Bill and I support almost all of it. I read the debate on the Bill when it was considered by the Select Committee on Justice and Equality on 24 May. On the proposed amendment to delete "eight" and substitute "twelve", Deputy O'Callaghan stated:

At present the Parole Board is required to consider people who are convicted of a life-sentence offences for parole after eight years. It is just not feasible because people do not get parole after eight years. Parole is not generally considered until after 12 years...

For that reason he proposed putting on a statutory basis something I cannot support on the basis of that logic. I would have thought we needed to improve the system rather than copperfasten a bad system. The Parole Board's report highlights victims and families and clearly states how often it receives letters from victims and families. It states that if a case involves a murder, many family members are still experiencing severe trauma and mental health problems after the death of their loved one. I want to put that on the record. The Parole Board's report states that these letters are seriously considered before deciding on a recommendation.

The difficulty I see here is the logic behind it because in reality they are not considered for parole at eight years in any event. I do not know why Deputy O'Callaghan would want to copper-fasten that in legislation. I would leave the little discretion that is there to the Parole Board if the practical difficulties can be worked out.

As a general principle, they say that parole only operates, as we know, for those who have received a sentence of more than eight years or a life sentence. It goes on then to point out, as Deputy O'Callaghan has already said, that it is up at 15, 16 or 17 years before parole is ever considered. I have a difficult, where it is highlighted as a problem that should be analysed and helped, that we will copper-fasten it in legislation.

I do not know where the amendment is taken but I have that amendment in. One is already being taken care of, I think, in amendment No. 50. Then I have amendments Nos. 49 and 47. Amendment No. 49 was to reduce it, to take out the "twelve". I will move that amendment.

Amendment No. 47 is one on which I will be guided by the Minister and Deputy O'Callaghan. In amendment No. 47, I ask that "clear and accessible information and support" be provided to the prisoner. That arose from section 18(2)(b) of the original Bill.

Deputy Connolly will get an opportunity.

It is part of this. If this section goes, then that section will go. I refer to the original section 18(2)(b), which states "persons whose parole is being considered should be provided with information relevant to the consideration [...]".

It will be discussed before the question of deleting it is arrived at because it is all part of section 18.

I suppose one could discuss this either with this current grouping or with Deputy Connolly's amendment No. 49 because this retains the change that was made on Committee Stage regarding 12 years. I suppose it is relevant to both areas.

I gave this a fair bit of thought and I looked over the Committee Stage debates. I was not participating in the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality at that time. There is a reasonable point that can be made there but the average amount of time that those who are recommended for release had spent in prison was 18 years. People may say that is a long time and, indeed, it is. It seems potentially excessive to set the statute basis for the beginning of review of sentences at less than half of that. There is a fair point that it creates an unrealistic expectation, potentially putting prisoners up for numerous reviews before they have any hope of being successful. Realistically, that would be a rubber-stamping exercise. There is a point that it is difficult for the victims of crime to imagine, even if it is not realistic, that somebody could be released on parole seven years after a potentially heinous crime. Potentially, I would consider something more than eight years and less than 12. Eight is too little. It is far out of line with the reality of what is happening and with what is a reasonable expectation.

I note that there are concerns about whether it delays some of the processes that surround parole, such as hearings and parole reviews in terms of treatment, training, evaluation, etc. Perhaps we should consider an amendment for the Seanad to see whether there is some legislative basis for beginning some of that work - I am sure some of it is going on all the time anyway but putting some formal shape to it within the context of the parole system - in advance of that 12 years. I will consider that in advance of the Seanad.

For the moment, I will be supporting the amendments that are currently before us. I will not be supporting amendment No. 49, which we will come to at a later stage.

For the sake of accuracy, Deputy Connolly's amendment No. 47 is to part of this section, section 18, but her amendment No. 50, which is being discussed with amendments Nos. 34 to 36, inclusive, because they are related, is not. If Deputy Connolly wants to make a further contribution on that, it is in a different section.

On amendment No. 47?

Amendment No. 50. Amendment No. 47 is in part of this section, section 18. We will get to it.

I am happy that amendment No. 50 has been taken care of.

I appreciate Deputy Connolly's interest in the legislation. When the Bill was originally drafted I put down the statutory provision that a prisoner could not apply for parole if he or she was serving a life sentence until he or she served 12 years. The effect of that, if it is enacted, will take a great deal of pressure off the Parole Board. At present, the Parole Board has to consider applications from life prisoners, say, who are told after seven or eight years that they can apply for parole. Such prisoners go through the process and the board has to consider their application in the knowledge that the prisoner will not get parole. It would be a much more efficient system, from everyone's point of view, if prisoners were told that they cannot apply for parole if they are serving a life sentence until they have served a specified period of time.

Seven or eight years is too low. Twelve years is approximately right. One must balance the rights of the victims of crime and the rights of the prisoner. It reflects the purpose of imprisonment which is twofold: punishment and rehabilitation. It is a difficult balancing act to achieve. As legislators, we cannot be swayed too much by the interests of one group over the interests of another group. For too long, the interests of the victims of crime have not been given sufficient weight by the Oireachtas. It is not as though this is a provision which is appalling from a prisoner's point of view. If a person has been convicted of a crime that results in a life sentence, he or she has committed a very serious offence of deliberately and intentionally killing somebody. For that reason, it is appropriate to put it at 12 years. It will ease the work of the Parole Board. There is a logic to putting it in so that prisoners do not have the expectation that they will get parole.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"Notification by Irish Prison Service of eligibility for parole

25. (1) The Irish Prison Service shall notify the Board in writing at intervals of not more than one year of the persons serving sentences of imprisonment who—

(a) are eligible for parole, whether for the first time or not, or

(b) to the knowledge of the Irish Prison Service, shall become so eligible in the period of 18 months following the date of the notification.

(2) Where a person becomes ineligible for parole by virtue of the operation of subsection (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14) or (15) of section 24, the Irish Prison Service shall, as soon as practicable after it becomes aware of the person becoming so ineligible so notify the Board in writing.

(3) Where a person who became ineligible for parole by virtue of the operation of subsection (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14) or (15) of section 24 ceases to be so ineligible and is otherwise eligible for parole, the Irish Prison Service shall, as soon as practicable after it becomes aware of the person becoming eligible for parole so notify the Board in writing.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"Application for parole

26. (1) Where a person is eligible for parole, or is scheduled to become so eligible, whether for the first time or not, the Board shall notify the person in writing—

(a) of the date on which he or she became or shall become, as the case may be, so eligible, and

(b) that he or she may make an application for parole in accordance with subsection (3).

(2) The Board shall endeavour, insofar as is possible, to notify a person pursuant to subsection (1) no later than 6 months prior to the date on which he or she shall become eligible for parole.

(3) A person who is eligible for parole, or a person who is scheduled to become eligible for parole, may notify the Board in writing that he or she wishes to be considered by the Board for parole (in this Act referred to as an "application for parole").

(4) Where a person who is scheduled to become eligible for parole makes an application for parole, the Board shall not consider the person’s release on parole prior to the date on which he or she becomes so eligible.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"Decision on parole

27. (1) Subject to subsection (3), the Board may make an order that the parole applicant be released on parole (in this Act referred to as a "parole order"), where it is satisfied that—

(a) the parole applicant—

(i) would not, upon being released, present an undue risk to the safety and security of members of the public (including the relevant victim), and

(ii) has been rehabilitated and would, upon being released, be capable of reintegrating into society,

and

(b) it is appropriate in all the circumstances that the parole applicant be released on parole.

(2) The Board shall, in deciding whether to make a parole order in respect of a parole applicant, have regard to—

(a) the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the parole applicant relates,

(b) the sentence of imprisonment concerned and any recommendation of the court that imposed that sentence in relation thereto,

(c) the period of the sentence of imprisonment served by the parole applicant,

(d) any offence of which the parole applicant was convicted other than the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by him or her relates,

(e) the conduct of the parole applicant—

(i) while serving the sentence of imprisonment,

(ii) while previously the subject of a parole order, if any,

(iii) while the subject of a direction under section 2 of the Act of 1960, if any, or

(iv) during a period of temporary release, if any, to which rules under section 2 of the Act of 1960, made before the coming into operation of the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003, applied,

(f) the risk of the parole applicant committing an offence while on parole,

(g) the risk of the parole applicant failing to comply with any conditions attaching to his or her release on parole,

(h) any treatment, education or training the parole applicant has undergone, or programmes he or she has participated in, while serving the sentence of imprisonment,

(i) any report relating to the parole applicant prepared and furnished to the Board pursuant to a direction in that regard under section 13,

(j) any meeting with the parole applicant conducted in accordance with procedures determined under section 14,

(k) any submissions made by or on behalf of the parole applicant, including any submissions made in relation to a draft decision on parole, in accordance with procedures determined under section 14,

(l) any submissions made by or on behalf of the relevant victim in accordance with procedures determined under section 14, and

(m) any such other matter as the Board considers appropriate.

(3) The Board shall not make a parole order in respect of a parole applicant where—

(a) the release of the parole applicant from prison is prohibited by or under any enactment, whether passed before or after the coming into operation of this section, or

(b) the parole applicant has been charged with, or convicted of, an offence and is in custody pursuant to an order of a court remanding him to appear at a future sitting of a court.".

There was an section in the original Bill on giving comprehensive information, that is, section 18(2)(b). That has been watered down a little. It was under the guiding principals in the original Bill, at section 18(2)(b), "persons whose parole is being considered should be provided with information relevant to the consideration of their parole and be advised how they may participate in decision-making that directly concerns them;". That seems to have been left out.

I do not purport to answer for the Minister. The difference, from the previous version of this Bill, is that now the applicant will have legal representation. That will enable the applicant to ensure that he or she is provided with all the relevant information before his or her application can be made or considered.

Amendment No. 37 is the decision on parole. It sets out the criteria the board must consider when making a decision. As Deputy O'Callaghan has said, the amendment retains the principles in the Bill in its current form which are themselves similar to the criteria used to make decisions with regard to temporary release.

There are essentially three criteria to be met in respect of parole. First, the applicant must not present an undue risk to the safety and security of the public, including the victim.

Second, the applicant must be rehabilitated and capable of reintegrating into society. Third, the board must decide that it is appropriate in all of the circumstances to grant parole. The third limb of the test is being introduced by amendment here. There is a similar provision in the legislation pertaining to temporary release. It is important that it is also included here. It is one of a range of factors that the board will consider in making its decision, including the nature of the offence and the seriousness and gravity of the offence committed. Members will recall that there was an interesting debate on Committee Stage about whether the board should be considering the circumstances of the offence. It was felt that in reality, this information could be very important in the decision making of the board. I agree. We are now dealing with the criteria in reaching a decision on the part of the board.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 38 to 42, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Parole order

28. (1) A parole order shall—

(a) be in writing,

(b) specify the person to whom it relates,

(c) direct that the person shall be released on parole on or before such date as may be specified in the order, which date shall be not more than 18 months from the date of the making of the order, and

(d) direct that the release on parole of the person shall be subject to—

(i) such conditions, if any, as may be specified in the order, having regard to the circumstances of the case,

(ii) such conditions, if any, as are specified in procedures determined under section 14 and are applicable to the person to whom the order relates or the class of persons to which he or she belongs, and

(iii) the condition that the person does not commit an offence while on parole.

(2) A parole order shall not include, other than to the extent the Board considers it necessary, any information that identifies, or could identify, a relevant victim or his or her place of residence.

(3) A parole order shall have effect—

(a) where the person is serving one sentence of imprisonment for a determinate term only—

(i) until the sentence of imprisonment expires,

(ii) until the order is revoked, or

(iii) for so long as the order is not suspended under section 34(3),

(b) where the person is serving two or more sentences of imprisonment, each of a determinate term, to be served concurrently—

(i) until the longest sentence of imprisonment being served by the person expires,

(ii) until the order is revoked, or

(iii) for so long as the order is not suspended under section 34(3),

(c) where the person is serving two or more sentences of imprisonment, each of a determinate term, to be served consecutively—

(i) until the sentence of imprisonment to be served last by the person expires,

(ii) until the order is revoked, or

(iii) for so long as the order is not suspended under section 34(3),

or

(d) where the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment for life, until the order is revoked or for so long as it is not suspended under section 34(3).

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1)(d)(i), a parole order may specify that the release of the person to whom it relates on parole shall be subject to any one or more of the following conditions:

(a) that the person submit to supervision by the Probation Service;

(b) that the person resides or remains in a particular district or place in the State;

(c) that the person refrains from attending at such premises or other place as the order may specify;

(d) that the person refrains from having any contact with such person or persons as the order may specify.

(5) A person released on parole pursuant to a parole order shall comply with any conditions to which his or her release is made subject.

(6) Where the Board makes a parole order, it shall, as soon as practicable after the making thereof—

(a) provide a copy of the order to—

(i) the parole applicant to whom it relates,

(ii) the Irish Prison Service,

(iii) the relevant governor,

(iv) the Probation Service, and

(v) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(b) notify the Minister in writing of the making of the order, and

(c) where it considers it appropriate, notify the relevant victim in writing of the making of the order and of any conditions attaching to such release which relate to the victim.”.

The amendments deal with parole orders, namely, the granting of a parole order, the refusal of a parole order, the variation of a parole order and the conditions which might be attached to parole orders. Amendment No. 38 broadly replaces the old section 22 of the Bill. It sets out what must be in a parole order when it takes effect and who must be given a copy of the order. The order will specify a date upon which the person is to be released, perhaps up to 18 months in the future. Often prisoners who have been detained for very many years may find it difficult to adjust if they are released immediately. Time can be used to prepare a person for their eventual release, for example by transferring him or her to an open prison, perhaps. A parole order will be subject to conditions that the board considers appropriate in the circumstances, for example, that the parolee does not communicate with the victim, that he or she does not visit a particular locality, or that he or she does not commit an offence while on parole. At the moment, life sentence prisoners living in the community are supervised by the probation services. As was mentioned on Committee Stage, these officers are responsible for facilitating and assisting an offender in reintegrating into society. As such, they are likely to be best placed to identify the immediate needs of and risks faced by an offender, including how these needs or risks might change or vary.

Amendment No. 39 provides that the prison governor must comply with a parole order. Amendment No. 40 deals with the refusal of a parole order. When refusing parole, the current Parole Board can recommend measures that could further the prisoner's rehabilitation or capacity to reintegrate into society or that might mitigate any risk they might pose to the public. For example, it can recommend that prisoners undergo a therapeutic programme or educational course or that they undergo short periods of temporary release. This is an important aspect of the board's current work, particularly when it is reviewing prisoners at an early stage of their sentences. There was broad agreement among Deputies on Committee Stage that this sentence management function should continue. At the time, Deputy O'Callaghan brought an amendment to the Bill to include sentence management as one of the board's functions. Subsection (2) inserted here makes that requirement more explicit.

Amendment No. 41 deals with the variation of a parole order. It allows the board to vary a parole order, for example, where it believes that a new condition might need to be added or that an existing condition should be changed. It can also vary the date of release of a person who is still in prison.

Amendment No. 42 deals with situations where the board decides on standard conditions that apply to all parole orders or a group of parolees. The board must notify every person affected of the new condition. It can also notify certain other people, including the victim, if the condition is relevant to the victim.

In the Bill as drafted and passed through Committee Stage, section 22 had a provision dealing with parole orders, section 24 dealt with variation of parole orders, and section 25 dealt with the revocation of parole orders. In many respects there is not much difference between that and the new sections the Minister is proposing, which deal with parole orders, refusal of application and variation of parole order. One of the important things is that we have to preserve and put into statute the power of the Parole Board to set conditions on granting parole. We need to recall that parole is granting somebody permission to be out of prison. They have been sentenced to a life sentence; parole is letting them out, but it can be on condition. One of the things I had in the original Bill which I am pleased to see the Minister has kept in his amendment is that persons being released on parole can be subject to a condition that they have to stay away from a particular person or place or refrain from having contact with a particular person. That is not too arduous from a prisoner's point of view but from the point of view of a victim of crime, it is extremely important. In the case of somebody who was sentenced for life for rape, the Parole Board could understandably want to ensure that this person stays away from the victim of his rape. It is important that we preserve that as a condition.

The amendments also deal with how refusal of an application for parole shall be effected and the variation of a parole order. Persons out on parole are out with the permission of the State; the life sentence still remains hanging over them. If they breach the terms of their parole, we need to ensure that there is some sanction for that. If they breach a condition of the parole order, there must be provision such that they can be brought back in or held to account for it. I think they are preserved in these amendments and I will be supporting them.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Compliance by relevant governor with parole order

29. Where a parolee is detained in a prison, the relevant governor shall comply with the parole order, and shall make and keep a record in writing of the order.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Refusal of application for parole

30. (1) A decision of the Board to refuse an application for parole shall—

(a) be in writing,

(b) specify a date, not later than 2 years after the date of the making of the decision, on which the person to whom the decision relates shall become eligible again for parole,

(c) include reasons for the decision, and

(d) not include any information that identifies, or could identify, a relevant victim or his or her place of residence.

(2) Where the Board refuses an application for parole, the Board may, where it considers it appropriate, specify in its decision so refusing measures in respect of the management of the sentence of the person to whom the decision relates which the Board is of the opinion would assist the person in making a future successful application for parole under this Act.

(3) Measures specified under subsection (2)

(a) shall be addressed to the Irish Prison Service, and

(b) shall not be binding.

(4) Where the Board refuses an application for parole, it shall, as soon as practicable after the making of the decision in relation to the application—

(a) provide a copy of the decision, to—

(i) the parole applicant to whom it relates,

(ii) the Irish Prison Service, and

(iii) the relevant governor,

and

(b) where the Board considers it appropriate, notify the relevant victim in writing of the making of the decision.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Variation of parole order

31. (1) The Board may at any time, of its own motion or on application in that behalf by a person specified in subsection (2), vary—

(a) a condition attaching to a parole order, whether by the alteration, addition or revocation of a condition, or

(b) where the parolee has not yet been released on parole, the date specified in the parole order by which he or she shall be so released.

(2) An application to vary a parole order under subsection (1) may be made by or on behalf of—

(a) the parolee,

(b) the Probation Service,

(c) the Irish Prison Service,

(d) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(e) the Minister, or

(f) such other person as the Board considers appropriate.

(3) A decision of the Board in respect of the variation of a condition attaching to a parole order or of a date for release specified in a parole order, as the case may be, shall—

(a) be in writing,

(b) include reasons for the decision, and

(c) not include, other than to the extent the Board considers it necessary, any information that identifies, or could identify, a relevant victim or his or her place of residence.

(4) Where the Board varies a condition attaching to a parole order—

(a) the variation shall take effect from a date to be specified in the decision so varying, and

(b) the variation shall have effect from that date as a condition of the parole order to which it is attached.

(5) Where the Board varies a date for release specified in a parole order, the date as so varied shall be deemed to be the date specified in the order in accordance with section 28(1)(c) as the date on or before which the person shall be released on parole.

(6) The Board shall, as soon as practicable after the making of a decision in relation to the variation of a condition attaching to a parole order or the date of release specified

in a parole order, as the case may be, under this section—

(a) provide a copy of the decision to—

(i) the parolee,

(ii) the Irish Prison Service,

(iii) the relevant governor,

(iv) the Probation Service, and

(v) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(b) notify the Minister in writing of the making of the order, and

(c) where it considers it appropriate, notify the relevant victim in writing of the making of the decision and of any condition so varied of relevance to him or her or the date of release so varied, as the case may be.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Specification of condition attaching to parole order

32. (1) Where the Board specifies a condition to which all parolees, or a specified class of parolees, shall be subject pursuant to procedures determined in accordance with section 14(1)(i) the Board shall, as soon as practicable after so specifying the condition—

(a) notify in writing the Minister and each parolee who shall be subject to the condition so specified, of—

(i) the condition so specified, and

(ii) the date on which the condition shall take effect,

(b) where it considers it appropriate, notify the relevant victim of each such parolee in writing of any condition so specified of relevance to him or her and the date on which the condition shall take effect, and

(c) notify in writing the persons specified in subsection (2) of—

(i) the condition so specified,

(ii) the date on which the condition shall take effect, and

(iii) the parolees who shall be subject to the condition.

(2) The Board shall notify the following persons in accordance with subsection (1)(c):

(a) the Irish Prison Service;

(b) the Probation Service;

(c) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána.

(3) A condition to which all parolees, or a specified class of parolees, shall be subject that is specified by the Board pursuant to procedures determined in accordance with section 14(1)(i) shall—

(a) take effect, for each parolee to whom it relates, from the date specified in the notification given to that parolee pursuant to subsection (1)(a), and

(b) have effect from that date as a condition attaching to the parole order relating to the parolee.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 43 to 46, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Revocation of parole order

33. (1) The Board may at any time, of its own motion or on application in that behalf by a person specified in subsection (2), revoke a parole order where it is satisfied that—

(a) the parolee who is the subject of the order—

(i) poses an undue risk to the safety and security of the public, or

(ii) has breached a condition attaching to the order,

and

(b) the revocation of the order is justified by the gravity of the risk or breach of the condition, as the case may be.

(2) An application to revoke a parole order under subsection (1) may be made by or on behalf of—

(a) the Probation Service,

(b) the Irish Prison Service,

(c) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

(d) the Minister, or

(e) such other person as the Board considers appropriate.

(3) The Board shall, in considering whether to revoke a parole order, have regard to such matters as it considers appropriate, including—

(a) the circumstance giving rise to the consideration of the revocation,

(b) any report relating to the parolee prepared and furnished to the Board pursuant to a direction in that regard under section 13,

(c) any meeting with the parolee conducted in accordance with procedures determined under section 14,

(d) any submissions made by or on behalf of the parolee in accordance with procedures determined under section 14, and

(e) any submissions made by or on behalf of the relevant victim in accordance with procedures determined under section 14.

(4) The Board may, where it is considering the revocation of a parole order and is not satisfied of the matters specified in subsection (1)(a) and (b), vary a condition attaching to the parole order or the date of release specified in the order and the provisions of subsections (3) to (6) of section 31 shall apply to the variation with all necessary modifications.

(5) A decision of the Board in respect of the revocation of a parole order shall—

(a) be in writing,

(b) where the Board decides to revoke the parole order, specify—

(i) the time and date at which the revocation shall take effect,

(ii) where the person to whom the decision relates is not detained in prison, the time and date at which, and the place to which, the person is to return to prison, and

(iii) a date, not later than 2 years after the date of the making of the decision, on which the person shall become eligible again for parole,

(c) include reasons for the decision, and

(d) not include, other than to the extent the Board considers it necessary, any information that identifies, or could identify, a relevant victim or his or her place of residence.

(6) The Board shall, as soon as practicable after the making of a decision in relation to the revocation of a parole order—

(a) provide a copy of the decision to—

(i) the parolee,

(ii) the Irish Prison Service,

(iii) the relevant governor,

(iv) the Probation Service, and

(v) the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána,

and

(b) notify the Minister and, where it considers it appropriate, the relevant victim, in writing of the making of the decision.

(7) Where the Board decides under this section to revoke a parole order which has been suspended pursuant to section 34(3), the suspension of the parole order shall continue to have effect until the time and date specified in the decision of the Board at which the revocation shall take effect pursuant to subsection (5)(b)(i).

(8) Where the Board decides under this section not to revoke a parole order which has been suspended pursuant to section 34(3), the suspension of the parole order shall cease to have effect.”.

These amendments concern the revocation of a parole order. Amendment No. 43 provides that the board can revoke an order where the parolee poses an undue risk to the safety and security of the public or where he or she has breached a condition attaching to the order. The powers of the board to gather information, including reports, will apply when the board is considering revocation. The board does not have to revoke the order. It can consider varying the order. Indeed, it can take no action at all, depending on the circumstance.

Amendments Nos. 44 to 46, inclusive, provide for power of arrest where a person has breached a parole order. Breach of a parole order renders a person unlawfully at large whereby he or she can be arrested. This is similar to a breach of a condition of temporary release. A person can be arrested and returned to detention. There is a similar provision in the Bill as it stands, however, on foot of legal advice, it is being amended here to reflect the system already in use for other forms of release. Where a person is arrested for breach of parole conditions, the parole order stands suspended until the board can consider whether to revoke the order, vary it or leave it in place. In this regard, the parolee will be entitled to make a submission and will be entitled to legal representation for this consideration by the board.

Again, this replicates the provision that was in the original Act. We are talking about a revocation of a parole order. When a person is given parole it is legally quite complicated. The person has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment and he or she is being released from prison. That has to be effected. The proposed legislation will effect this through the issuing of a parole order. Obviously, there must be some power to put the person back into prison if he or she breaches the terms of the order. In this legislation, that is done by providing a section that deals with a revocation of the parole order. As the Minister has said, there can also be a variation of the parole order. It is to be hoped it may not be necessary for the person to be put back into prison if it is the case that the parole order has been breached in some respect. If it was breached in a very material or egregious way it would require revocation of the order. This provision, however, permits there to be a variation of it also.

I note the proposed new section 34 and the unusual term, “Persons unlawfully at large", which is used elsewhere in our legal system. It designates what happens when a parole order has been made with conditions, when those conditions have been breached, when a revocation of the parole order is issued and what one does with the person who is out in the community with a revoked parole order. This proposal seeks to categorise the person as a person unlawfully at large. This makes it an offence for the person to be unlawfully at large, and it entitles a member of An Garda Síochána - without a warrant - to arrest the person who is unlawfully at large. I will be supporting the amendments.

I agree generally with the principle involved but am a little uncomfortable with the way it has been drafted. Obviously there is a process there in that a person who breaches his or her parole conditions could potentially be arrested, have his or her parole revoked or there is a hearing of the parole board and so on. It is structured in such a way, however, that it is essentially an automatic criminal offence to be in breach of the conditions of the parole order. This is a difficulty because some of the conditions of parole may not necessarily be criminal offences. The Irish Penal Reform Trust has given the example of insobriety. The person could be expected to stay sober as a condition of his or her parole. There are other such examples. It would not necessarily lead to the revocation of the parole order but as this proposed legislation is structured, it is automatically a criminal offence, if I understand it correctly. This is despite the fact that not being sober would not ordinarily be a criminal offence. I have some reservations regarding the proposed new section 44. Perhaps the Minister will address that but if not, perhaps I will vote against the amendment. Will the Minister clarify the situation? If I understand the amendment correctly then any breach, regardless of whether it is a criminal offence, is treated as a criminal offence on the basis of it being a breach. That is my current reading of it.

There will be a need for a criminal offence provision in order to facilitate a power of arrest when needed. There may be circumstances when this would be required very quickly and there would not be time for a court hearing; a process that might be lengthy. This amendment is similar to a breach of a condition in respect of other forms of release. A condition of temporary release, for example, is where on the matter of a breach, the person is arrested and returned to the place of detention. This process moves swiftly. I stress that this matter was given legal consideration. We were in contact with the Office of the Attorney General since the issue was discussed on Committee Stage. It is important to reflect the regime that operates and is used with other forms of conditional release, which in the circumstances this can be seen to be.

Perhaps the Minister can talk us through it. I understand the point that is being made but it appears that this is a criminal offence on top of a decision on whether to revoke the parole order. A person could have an additional six months of an offence, and then a decision as to whether the parole order is to be revoked. This is an offence in itself.

I understand the point about the powers of arrest. I am sure there are many circumstances in which a person in breach of his or her parole order should be arrested, which makes sense. Is it entirely necessary, however, to make it specifically and automatically a criminal offence? Could there be powers of arrest on the basis of suspecting a criminal element and not necessarily with the need for a hearing? A person may be suspected of being in breach of a criminal element of the parole order. Would this be safer than making it an automatic criminal offence for any breach of any kind?

There will be an opportunity for the parolee in question to make a submission. Not every breach would result in an arrest but there will be a requirement and the Garda would need such a power, in certain circumstances. There will not always be a prosecution. The important point is the protection of victims. There would be an opportunity for the parolee to make a submission on the nature of the order. The parole order would be suspended until the board makes a decision on the matter of a variation; whether to let it stand or whether to revoke it. The parolee will be entitled both to make a submission and to legal representation on the matter of the submission when the issue is being considered by the board. The most important consideration is the need for order and the needs and concerns of the victims. What we are doing here is along the lines that exist with other forms of conditional release.

I am not sure that we are getting this right. I agree with the objective but a person could be out on parole for several years and then may come across a situation or have an adverse relationship with an individual garda. That garda would have the power to arrest the person for something that is potentially not a criminal offence. I believe it is right that it is possible for a person to be rearrested for very many breaches of parole. It would be right to arrest the person in that situation and it would be the important thing. There must, however, be a cleaner way of doing this rather than making every single potential breach automatically a criminal offence. On that basis, I will oppose the proposed section by voice vote at this Stage and consider amendments for the Seanad.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

Persons unlawfully at large

34. (1) A person who, by reason of having been released on parole, is at large shall be deemed to be unlawfully at large if-

(a) a condition to which his or her release was made subject has been broken, or

(b) his or her parole order is revoked and he or she fails to return to the place specified, at the time and date specified, in the decision so revoking pursuant to section 33(5)(b)(ii).

(2) A person who is unlawfully at large shall be guilty of an offence under this section and on summary conviction thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months.

(3) Where, by reason of the breach of a condition to which his or her release on parole was made subject, a person is deemed to be unlawfully at large and is arrested under section 35, the parole order pursuant to which he or she was released shall thereupon stand suspended pending a decision of the Parole Board under section 33 as to whether the parole order should be revoked.

(4) The currency of the sentence of a person who is unlawfully at large for any period shall be suspended in respect of the whole of that period.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

Arrest of person unlawfully at large

35. A member of the Garda Síochána may arrest without warrant a person whom he or she suspects to be unlawfully at large and may take such person to the place in which he or she is required in accordance with law to be detained.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 16, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

Consideration of revocation of parole order of person unlawfully at large

36. (1) Where a person has been arrested under section 35, the Irish Prison Service shall notify the Board of the person’s arrest as soon as practicable thereafter.

(2) Where the Board is notified under subsection (1) of a person’s arrest, the Board shall, as soon as practicable after being so notified, consider whether the parole order relating to the person should be revoked pursuant to section 33.”.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 18

I need clarification on whether amendment No. 47 can be moved.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 17, line 1, to delete “information” and substitute “clear and accessible information and support”.

We are not just talking about people who are serving life sentences but about sentences over eight years. The statistics relating to mental health, illiteracy and many other issues among the prison population are frightening. The amendment is very practical. It was included in the original Bill in section 18(2)(b) and I have changed it only slightly. I am not sure why it was proposed to omit it on this occasion. My amendment stands, whether it is appropriate to deal with it now or whether it is to be bypassed. I am simply asking that people are given “clear and accessible information and support” in their parole application. The Minister's answer was that there is now legal assistance. However, given the population we are dealing with, and the statistics that have been highlighted, it is not unreasonable to ask for this to be included. The amendment would fit in very much with other sections of the Bill we discussed earlier.

I contend the amendment is unnecessary and I am not inclined to accept it. As the Deputy Connolly, the amendment suggests that the information provided to the applicant must be clear and accessible. Of course, everybody will agree that the information should be clear but I am satisfied that information the board provides would, in any event, be clear. A difficulty I have is that the use of such a term in legislation could give rise to undue difficulty and uncertainty. The meaning of what is "clear" or "accessible" in respect of one applicant might not be the same for another.

By way of comfort for the Deputy, the amendments are providing for legal representation, which would be available to the applicant for parole at an early stage. Any form of legal representation would be of such assistance to the applicant as to ensure that the applicant has an understanding of the process and, in order to have an understanding of the process, one would expect that the information would be clear and accessible. To put such terms in statutory form might give rise to unintended difficulties. I have an expectation that when the board is providing information, every effort should be made to ensure the information is clear and accessible. If that was not the case, one could suggest the board was not fulfilling its functions in a proper and reasonable manner. I add to that the issue of legal representation. With the legal representation available to the applicant, the expectation would be that the information would be both accessible and clear.

This amendment arose in respect of section 18(2)(b) of the legislation, as drafted, which states: "persons whose parole is being considered should be provided with information relevant to the consideration of their parole and be advised how they may participate in decision-making that directly concerns them". In addition, the Irish Penal Reform Trust referred to an unpublished survey conducted by the Irish Prison Service over the period 2015-17, so these are up-to-date figures. Some 25.6% of prisoner participants in that survey did not attend secondary school, 52% left before junior certificate, 80% had left before leaving certificate, only one in five had completed a leaving certificate, compared to three in five of the general population, and only 9% had completed some form of higher education. There are many other studies, with which I am sure the Minister is very familiar, that link disadvantage and the population of our prisons. To go way back, although the figures have remained the same, in 1997, some 56% of prisoners in Mountjoy Prison came from six districts in Dublin and almost 80% of participants in that study had left school before the age of 16.

Literacy is an issue I am particularly interested in. The figure nationally for the general population is astounding from the 1970s onwards. However, among the prison population, an Irish literacy survey found in 2003 that 52% of the prison population had the lowest literacy levels compared to 25% of the general population. I could go on but I know the Minister is very familiar with this.

It is in that context that I moved the amendment, which seeks to ensure that information was given to prisoners in a way that was real and so they could act on it, given the importance of a parole hearing. However, the Minister suggests the legal representation will ensure that.

I do not dispute what the Deputy said in respect of the report to which she referred. I merely make two points. First, it would be incumbent on the parole board to ensure it deals with applications in a way that is understood by the applicant and, second, the applicant has at his or her disposal access to legal representation and legal advice. I reiterate that inserting such terms as "clear" and "accessible" in legislation may be open to unnecessary argument and a lack of clarity. However, the spirit of what the Deputy has proposed will be included in the legislation in any event.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 18 deleted.
Debate adjourned.