TDs to consider legislation to put Parole Board on statutory basis

Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson
Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson

Legislation to place the Parole Board on a statutory basis was introduced to the Dáil this morning on the initiative of Fianna Fáil.

Jim O’Callaghan, the party’s justice spokesperson, yesterday welcomed reports that the Parole Bill 2016 will secure Government support when it is introduced into the Dáil tomorrow morning.

He added: “In bringing forward this Bill, Fianna Fáil is attempting to address a significant failing in our criminal justice system.

“A body that performs functions as critically important as the Parole Board – advising whether or not convicted murderers and rapists are to be released back into the community – should be clearly defined and mandated in our statute law, with the basis of its decisions clearly examined and understood by the country.

“The failure to date to place the Parole Board on a statutory basis means that the functions played by that board do not have the force of law and represent only advice to the Minister, who can take it or leave it. In turn, prisoners who believe they are entitled to parole but are being denied it, then turn to the courts system for satisfaction. ”

He said the bill will “put the Parole Board on a statutory basis, will provide carefully for the membership of the board, it will set out the criteria that can be used for granting parole as well as the offences not covered” and outline the rights of communities where parole is granted.

IPRT executive director Deirdre Malone
IPRT executive director Deirdre Malone

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the introduction of the bill.

Speaking to Irish Legal News, IPRT executive director Deirdre Malone said: “The establishment of a statutory parole system, which is fully independent of political control, will help to achieve clarity, coherence and legal certainty in the law and support a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of sentenced persons to a fair and balanced system of release.

“A more transparent and structured system of release for prisoners incentivises meaningful engagement with services and regimes inside prison, and supports more successful reintegration of prisoners back into the community.

“Scrutiny of the passage of the Bill will be essential to ensure that this key value of independence is promoted and preserved.”