126. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if and when she will implement the recommendations of the cross-agency strategic review on penal policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12638/16]


Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy is aware, the Penal Policy Review Group was established in 2012 in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group to conduct a wide ranging strategic review of penal policy taking into account relevant work already carried out in this jurisdiction and elsewhere, the rights of those convicted of crimes, the perspective of those who are victims of crime, and the interests of society in general.
The terms of reference for the Group included an examination and analysis of the role of penal policy in crime prevention; sentencing policies; alternatives to custody; custodial accommodation and regimes; reintegration and rehabilitation; and any special issues relating to female offenders.
In November 2014, I submitted the Report of the Penal Policy Review Group to the Government. As an initial step, the Government agreed, in principle, to proceed immediately with the implementation of the following key recommendations:
- bringing forward legislative proposals to establish the Parole Board on an independent statutory basis;
- preparing proposals and options for Government on reform of sentencing policy including a review of the threshold at which presumptive minimum sentences in drugs and other offences apply;
- preparing proposals for Government on legislating for the review's recommendation that Courts set out in writing their reasons for imposing a custodial sentence;
- preparing proposals on the potential for increased use of earned remission; and
- pursuing options for an open prison for female offenders.
Work is underway to progress the implementation of these decisions. To this end I have established a Penal Policy Implementation Oversight Group. The Group is chaired by Dr. Mary Rogan, Associate Professor, School of Law, Trinity College who was a member of the review group. I expect to receive a report from this group shortly setting out the state of implementation. It is also my intention to publish this report.