Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ceisteanna (280)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

280. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether a meeting of the parole board (details supplied) which led to a number of escorted absences from prison was legitimately held in view of the fact that it occurred less than seven years from the commencement of a life sentence; the steps he plans to take to remedy the situation; if he has sought the advice of the Attorney General on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47868/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on individual cases.

However, in general terms it is important to note that limited day release under escort and supervision should not be confused with the release of an offender on parole. Nor do escorted day releases necessarily lead to release of a person on parole in the short or medium term.

As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, the Irish Prison Service work on an ongoing basis with offenders with a view to reducing any future risk to society in the event of their release, should that occur. The approaches taken in this jurisdiction are evidence-based and represent best international practice.

Life sentence prisoners are currently eligible to engage with the Parole Board after they have been in custody for seven years, although in practice and over the past 10 years, the average sentence served by a life sentence prisoner before being released on parole has been more than 19 years.

Finally, the Parole Act 2019 provides for the establishment of an independent, statutory Parole Board, which will make decisions in relation to parole for all eligible prisoners. There are a number of practical steps required for commencement of the Act and establishment of the Parole Board, for example selection of Board members, the appointment of a Chief Executive and staff, putting in place the funding for the new Board and various other matters including determining where the Board’s premises will be. The Parole Act also establishes a new threshold of 12 years which must be served by life sentence prisoners before they are eligible to be considered for parole. This will apply to life sentenced prisoners regardless of whether the relevant sentence was imposed by the Courts prior to or after the commencement of the Act.