736. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice when applicants can apply for membership of the Parole Board; and the process for submitting applications. [10129/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The establishment of the Parole Board is a priority under my Justice Plan 2021, which envisages the new Board being fully operational by July 2021.
The Government has supported this commitment with funding allocated for the Parole Board for 2021 of €1.3 million, which is more than double previous allocations.
I have put in place a dedicated project team to coordinate, track and drive forward this work across this Department and the Sector. To date, the team has consulted with a number of key stakeholders and a project plan has been finalised. This plan maps out a critical path of the various milestones to be achieved from now through to the commencement of the Act and the establishment of the Board.
My goal is for the full complement of Board members to be ready and available for appointment by end-June 2021 or shortly thereafter; as the Deputy will understand, the appointments cannot be formalised until the Act has been commenced. The final stage of the process will be the drafting and signing of the Commencement Order, which I expect to be ready by July 2021.
Section 10 of the Parole Act 2019 provides that the Board shall comprise between 12 and 15 members bringing together the professional experience, skills and knowledge of the criminal justice system required to make a reasonable and balanced assessment of cases.
Under the Act, the majority of members of the Parole Board will be nominated by specified nominating bodies and specified post-holders as set out in Section 10, and appointed by me as Minister in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions. Ensuring gender balance among the membership is an important element of the process and is built into the legislation in a clear and constructive manner.
I am delighted to note that, as an important first step in the membership process, the Chief Justice has recently nominated Mr Justice Michael White, a High Court Judge, as the inaugural Chairperson of the Parole Board. My Department has commenced initial, preparatory work with Mr Justice Michael White. I have written to the other nominating bodies and specified post-holders in line with subsections 10(3)(b) to 10(3)(h), inclusive, of the above Act and have requested their responses in the coming weeks.
In addition to the nominated members, it remains open to me Minister to appoint between one and four members to the Board directly in line with subsections 10(3) (i) and 10(3)(j), provided that those persons fulfil the eligibility criteria set out in section 10(5) of the Act and have sufficient and appropriate experience and expertise.
It is my stated preference that the selection of individuals suitable for such appointments would be facilitated via an open Public Appointments Service (PAS) process; my Department has made contact with PAS in this regard and further details about this process will be made public as soon as possible.
Mr Justice White has accepted an invitation by my Department to guide the drafting of the relevant role specifications in this regard.
In making these appointments, I will take stakeholder perspectives into consideration to the greatest extent possible, bearing in mind the requirement for fair procedures and the need for a range of appropriate expertise in order for the Board to formulate its decisions in a consistent, accountable and robust manner.
I would also be very happy to see a victim’s representative on the Board.