Minister McEntee publishes Parole Board Annual Report for 2019
- The Parole Board’s total active caseload at the beginning of 2019 was the highest in 5 years.
- The average time served in custody by a life sentence prisoner released in 2019 was approximately 20 years.
- Minister acknowledges the importance of Parole Act 2019 and looks forward to the full commencement in 2021.
30 November 2020
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has today published the Annual Report of the Parole Board for 2019.
The Parole Board's principal function is to advise the Minister for Justice in relation to the administration of long-term prison sentences. 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. The final decision regarding the recommendations of the Parole Board lies with the Minister, who can accept them in their entirety, in part, or reject them.
Noting the important work of the Board, the Minister said,
“I want to thank the members of the Parole Board for the significant contribution they make to the operation of the Criminal Justice system. The Board undertake challenging work and make considered recommendations, taking account of a range of highly sensitive and complex matters.
“I met with the Chairman of the Parole Board, Mr John Costello towards the end of September and we had a wide-ranging, positive discussion on the work of the Board”.
The Parole Board was very active in 2019 and convened on 11 occasions reviewing 117 cases. This caseload comprised of 32 first reviews and 85 prisoners who were reviewed for a second or subsequent occasion. In 2019, 17 life-sentenced prisoners were recommended for parole by the Board. The Minister accepted the recommendation of the Parole Board in respect of these cases. The average time served in custody by a life sentence prisoner released in 2019 was about 20 years.
In terms of implementing the Parole Act 2019, Minister McEntee took the opportunity to acknowledge that the new statutory Parole Board will considerably improve the system as it currently operates. The Minister said,
“I am fully committed to establishing the new Parole Board as soon as possible. This is an important Programme for Government commitment and is something I have identified as a priority action for my Department”.
“The move from the current model to the model set out in the 2019 Act is complex and a significant amount of planning has been required. While much of this work has been completed, there are a number of practical steps required before I commence the Act and establish the Parole Board. These include the selection of Board members and the appointment of a Chief Executive and of staff.”
“Under Budget 2021 I have secured a significantly increased funding allocation of €1.3m to allow us to move this project from the planning to the implementation phase. ”
The Parole Act 2019 puts the Parole Board on an independent statutory footing and sets out clear and transparent criteria for how the Board will reach its decisions, which will be independent of the Minister of the day. This includes what factors will be taken into account in making those decisions, who may make submissions - which includes the victim’s right to make a formal submission to the Board - as well as a number of other details. The Act also increases the length of the sentence which must be served by life-sentenced prisoners before they are eligible to be considered for parole, from 7 to 12 years.
A Project Board has been established in the Department of Justice to drive forward this important work, and to ensure that all necessary arrangements are made as soon as possible.
Minister McEntee reconfirmed her commitment commencement as soon as possible, saying,
“Additional staff have been assigned to implement this project on a priority basis, in addition to the seven existing Parole Board staff who will continue to support the existing Board. I am pleased to say that a critical path for delivery of this significant priority project is currently being developed, with a view to ensuring full commencement of the Parole Act in 2021. When fully operational I expect the budget for the Board to be in the region of €2 million per year.”
The report is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Parole_Board_Annual_Report_2019
Notes to Editors
Link to the Report: Parole Board Annual Report 2019 (Irish & English language versions)
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 2019
As highlighted in their report, a total of 71 prisoners were referred to the Parole Board for review during 2019. The total caseload on hand of the Board at the beginning of 2019 was 382. This included a combination of new cases and cases at second or subsequent review stage. During 2019, the Board convened on 11 occasions and reviewed 117 cases. The Minister accepted the recommendations in 69 cases in full and 11 cases conditionally or in part. At the end of the year there were 24 decisions pending.
Parole Board recommendations in 2018 – 2019
Reviewable Temporary Release 17
Step down to a less secure environment 10
Transfer to an open centre 15
Family visits at a neutral venue 24
TR for education, work training 26
TR for resocialisation 20
Work with therapeutic services 67
Section 39’s under Prisons Act 2007 15
Time served by life sentence prisoners as at 30 June 2020
40 years+ 2
35 to < 40 years 9
30 to < 35 years 6
25 to < 30 years 7
20 to < 25 years 26
15 to < 20 years 73
12 to < 15 years 63
10 to < 12 years 40
5 to < 10 years 84
1 to < 5 years 43
Less than 1 year 2
Average time life sentenced prisoners spent in custody before release: 2001 to 2019
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
2019 11 20