Minister Flanagan publishes Parole Board annual report 2018

 

11 September 2019

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today published the Annual Report of the Parole Board for 2018.

 

The Minister said: “The provision of advice to me on the management of long term prisoners’ sentences is a very complex and sensitive area. The actions of those who come before the Parole Board for consideration have had catastrophic and long lasting consequences for the victims of the offences concerned and their families. There are no easy decisions in these matters.  I would like to thank the Chairman, Mr John Costello, and the members of the Board for this difficult and vital work.”

 

The Parole Board can make a variety of recommendations following their review of cases, including, but not limited to: working with therapeutic services, education, work training, resocialisation, step down to a less secure custodial environment, family visits at a neutral venue, transfer to an open centre, and reviewable temporary release. Life sentence prisoners who are granted temporary release are regarded in law as still serving that sentence and are liable to recall at any time.

 

122 prisoners were reviewed by the Parole Board during 2018. A total of 7 long-sentence prisoners were recommended for reviewable temporary release during the year. The average time served in custody prior to release by a life sentenced prisoner in 2018 was 17.5 years. Two released prisoners were returned to custody during 2018, one at his own request in the context of possible public safety concerns and the other following a charge of assault.

 

The Minister also took the opportunity to highlight the recent passing of the Parole Act 2019 which will set up an independent Parole Board. Rather than making recommendations to the Minister of the day, the new Board will make the final decision on whether to release a prisoner on parole. Prisoners serving life sentences will become eligible to be considered after 12 years (up from current 7 years) and victims will continue to be informed when a prisoner is to be considered for parole and will continue be able to make submission to Board.

 

The Minister added: “I am very pleased that the ground-breaking piece of legislation to establish the Parole Board on a statutory basis was recently passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess. The reforms in the Parole Bill are designed to put the operation of the Parole Board on an independent, transparent and statutory footing and this will clearly set out how decisions on the granting, revoking and varying of parole orders will be made in the future.

 

The report is available on the Department of Justice and Equality website at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Parole_Board_Annual_Report_2018.pdf/Files/Parole_Board_Annual_Report_2018.pdf

 

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors:

 

Function of Parole Board

The Parole Board's principal function is to advise the Minister on the administration of long term prison sentences in respect of prisoners who are serving sentences greater than seven years. The Board, by way of recommendation to the Minister, advises of the prisoner's progress to date, the degree to which the prisoner has engaged with the various therapeutic services and how best to proceed with the future administration of the sentence. All recommendations are considered in full when making the final decision on sentence management. The Parole Board comprises experts in areas including psychiatry, criminal law, probation and policing.

 

The factors that the Parole Board consider include: the nature and seriousness of the offence, the sentence being served and any recommendations from the court that imposed the sentence, how much of the sentence has been served at the time of the review, previous convictions, conduct in prison, engagement with therapeutic services, any written representations made by victims, the level of risk to the safety and security of the public should a prisoner be released, and the prospects of successful resettlement. In some cases several recommendations are made.

 

Caseload in 2018

As highlighted in their report, a total of 63 prisoners were referred to the Parole Board for review during 2018. The total caseload on hand of the Board at the beginning of 2018 was 343. This included a combination of new cases and cases at second or subsequent review stage. During 2018, the Board convened on 11 occasions and reviewed 122 cases. In respect of the cases reviewed, recommendations were made to the Minister in 111 cases. The Minister accepted the recommendations in full in 92 cases and accepted one case conditionally or in part. There were 18 decisions pending at the end of 2018.

 

Parole Board recommendations in 2018

Temporary Release                                                         7

Step down to a less secure environment                11

Transfer to an open centre                                           20

Family visits at a neutral venue                                  20

TR for education, work training                                  21

TR for resocialization                                                      51

Work with therapeutic services                                 94

 

Time served by life sentence prisoners as at 31 January 2019

40 years+                            1

35 to < 40 years                7

30 to < 35 years                9

25 to < 30 years                9

20 to < 25 years                19

15 to < 20 years                66

10 to < 15 years                92

5 to < 10 years                  88

1 to < 5 years                     52

Less than 1 year                5

Total                                      348

 

Average time life sentenced prisoners spent in custody before release: 2001 to 2018

Number released              Average (mean) years in custody

2001                       5                                              15

2002                       3                                              11

2003                       1                                              14

2004                       1                                              19.5

2005                       2                                              14.5

2006                       0                                             n/a

2007                       6                                              15.5

2008                       2                                              15.5

2009                       5                                              17.5

2010                       6                                              18.25

2011                       5                                              20

2012                       4                                              22

2013                       4                                              17.5

2014                       4                                              20

2015                       6                                              17.5

2016                       7                                              22          

2017                       10                                           18

2018                       11                                           18