34. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her legislative plans to reform the Parole Board of Ireland, in view of recent criticism, particularly about the decision-making process and the extent of ministerial input into temporary release; her views on failures identified in a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7069/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 415 dated 14 January 2015, which dealt with the report referred to by the Deputy.
In relation to the Parole Board, proposals are being prepared to put it on a statutory footing. In September last year, I published the report of the Penal Policy Review Group which was tasked with carrying out a strategic review of penal policy. As an initial step, the Government agreed in principle last November to proceed with the implementation of a number of key recommendations, including the bringing forward of legislative proposals to establish the Parole Board on an independent statutory basis.
I believe this will help to strengthen the Board and improve its functions. My Department is currently considering the matter in more detail ahead of presenting proposals for legislation.
415. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will respond to issues raised by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49699/14]
The Question relates to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons into the death in custody of a prisoner in the Midlands Prison on 30 January, 2012. I published the Inspector's report on 17 December, 2014.
I would like to begin by taking this opportunity to offer my sympathy to the family concerned on their loss. I would also like to thank the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, for his very comprehensive investigation and report into the death in custody of the prisoner concerned.
Since 1 January, 2012, the death of any prisoner in custody or on temporary release is the subject of an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons. The Office of the Inspector is a statutory independent office established under the Prisons Act, 2007.
The Inspector's investigation and reports are part of a three pronged process, the other elements being investigations by An Garda Síochána, and investigations and inquests conducted by Coroners. The combination of the Garda inquiries, the Coroners' investigations and inquests, and the Inspector's reports mean that this country is in compliance with its national and international obligations and meets the criteria laid down by the European Court of Human Rights when interpreting the procedural requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is important for all concerned, where any issues or deficiencies arise, that we ensure they are addressed and that we learn from them. In that context, I am carefully studying the Inspector's report and am considering the issues involved.
These include the issue of temporary release for the category of offenders referred to in the report, which is currently considered on a case-by-case basis. Proposals are under consideration for a more structured approach of limited temporary release in such cases, where full and constructive engagement with the prison and probation services could lessen the risk of re-offending. In this consideration, the safety of the public, the importance of victims, and the goal of reducing re-offending will be the primary objectives.
In relation to the issue of Garda submissions on applications for temporary release, it is important, given the crucial role that Garda advice can have in the consideration of such applications, that this issue is addressed generally, and not simply in relation to any individual case. The Irish Prison Service is therefore being asked to engage with the Garda Síochána on agreeing a more structured format for the submission of advice on such applications, drawing on the findings of this report and their joint experience in managing this issue.