Minister Humphreys establishes new Parole Board and increases time life prisoners must serve before being considered for parole
· Life-sentence prisoners must now serve 12 years before being considered for parole, compared to the previous 7 years
· Statutory Parole Board now established with Chairperson and 12 board members
· New board members have experience of working with victims and prisoners
· All sections of the Act commenced on July 30; July 31 establishment day for new Parole Board
11 August 2021
The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced the establishment of the new Parole Board and the commencement of the Parole Act.
The purpose of the Act is to place the parole process on a statutory footing, and establish an independent, statutory Parole Board to decide on parole applications.
The Act sets out clear and transparent criteria for how the Board will reach its decisions, which will be independent of the Minister of the day.
Following the commencement of the Act on July 30, the time which must be served by a life-sentence prisoner before being considered for parole has now increased to 12 years, compared to the previous 7 years.
The average sentence served in the last ten years before a life sentenced prisoner is released on parole is 18 years, and in 2019 it was 20 years.
July 31 was designated as establishment day for the new Parole Board, and the announcement by Minister Humphreys follows a promise by Minister Helen McEntee that the Government would establish the new Parole Board and commence the Act by July.
The establishment of the Parole Board on a statutory footing is a priority action under Justice Plan 2021 and is a key commitment in the Programme for Government.
Announcing the establishment of the new Board, Minister Humphreys said:
“The Parole Board plays a vital role in the justice system. Transparency and accountability is vital in achieving fairness for victims of crime and rehabilitation for the prisoners. I believe that the new independent Parole Board will considerably improve the system as it currently operates.
The change to the length of a life sentence which must be served, from seven years to 12 years, before an initial parole hearing is a recognition that the previous period was distressing for victims. I believe the new period of 12 year is a positive change.
I am also glad that the new Board includes members who have significant experience of working with victims as well as prisoners.”
Earlier this year, The Hon. Mr Justice Michael White was nominated by the Chief Justice as the inaugural Chair of the Parole Board. A further 9 Board members were appointed following their nomination by specified nominating bodies and specified post holders as set out in Section 10 of the Act.
Speaking about his new role as Chairperson of the statutory Parole Board, Mr Justice White said:
“I am honoured to be the inaugural Chairperson of the statutory Parole Board. The legislation underpinning the Board’s functions is excellent and I look forward to working with my fellow Board members to implement it. I would like to thank all of the legislators involved in developing the Parole Act 2019 and all of those who have worked towards the establishment of this new organisation.”
Following a Public Appointments Service (State Boards) selection process, the Minister recently decided to appoint Ms. Ann Reade, Mr. Paddy Richardson and Mr. Kieran Kenny, bringing the total Board membership to 13 (including the Chairperson).
An interim Chief Executive of the Parole Board has been appointed, pending the appointment of a full time Chief Executive. The post was recently advertised by the Public Appointments Service.
The Parole Act also sets out clearly how decisions on granting, revoking and varying parole orders will be made.
Parole can only be granted if the Board is satisfied that the prisoner does not pose an undue risk to the public, that he or she has been rehabilitated, and that it is appropriate in all the circumstances to release him or her on parole.
Victims of crime will be able to make submissions to the Board if they wish and may, under the Act, receive legal assistance in this regard.
Speaking about an upcoming consultation with victims groups the Minister said:
“The Parole Board will shortly be writing to national organisations and groups that represent and support victims of crime in the State, in order to provide them with some information in respect of the commencement of the Parole Act 2019 and other relevant and related matters.”
The Government has supported this commitment with funding allocated for the Parole Board for 2021 of €1.3m, which is more than double previous allocations. The Minister concluded:
"The additional funding provided to the Board demonstrates a clear commitment on the part of the Government to the successful implementation of this new legislation. The new Board can avail of this increased level of resourcing as it begins to implement the Parole Act 2019 in the months ahead.”
A copy of the commencement order is available on the website of the of Irish Statute Book at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2021/si/405/made/en/print
Bios of Parole Board members
The Hon. Mr Justice Michael White
Mr Justice White is Head of the Central Criminal Court. He has had 25 years’ experience as a judge, with 15 years in the Circuit Court and now 10 years in the High Court.
Mr Justice White was nominated by the Chief Justice
Ms Ann Reade
Ms Reade is a CORU-registered Social Worker and has had thirty years’ experience of working as a social worker, in the Probation Service and most recently with Tusla. As a policy manager in the Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Unit of Tusla, she worked with organisations delivering frontline services to victims.
In the Probation Service, Ms Reade developed and delivered training programmes to increase awareness of victims’ issues. She also contributed to the development of an all-island risk assessment system for sex offenders, which is used by An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the probation services north and south.
Ms Reade was appointed by the Minister following a Public Appointments Service (State Boards) selection process.
Mr Kieran Kenny
Mr Kenny holds a BA, an Adv.Dip.Mgt. and an MSc (UCD) and is a former Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. He has had extensive experience in the enforcement of law and the administration of justice. He is the current Chairperson of Victim Support at Court (V-SAC) and the Chairperson of CORU’s Education and Training and Review Teams.
Mr Kenny was appointed by the Minister following a Public Appointments Service (State Boards) selection process.
Mr Paddy Richardson
Mr Richardson has over 20 years’ experience working in the criminal justice system. He is the Chief Executive of the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities (IASIO) which provides rehabilitation and reintegration services for clients referred by the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service. Prior to working within the criminal justice area, Paddy led various programmes within the disability, homeless and immigrant sectors.
Mr Richardson was appointed by the Minister following a Public Appointments Service (State Boards) selection process.
Ms Sinéad McMullan BL
Ms McMullan has been a practising barrister since 1998, specialising in all aspects of criminal law (both prosecution and defence). She holds an LLB from Trinity College Dublin and a Master’s in Law from the University of Oxford.
Ms McMullan was nominated by the General Council of the Bar of Ireland.
Dr Shane McCarthy
Dr McCarthy is a practising solicitor, who has previously served as a member of the interim Parole Board. He serves as a member of the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society of Ireland and has undertaken extensive research on the operation of parole in Ireland and internationally.
Dr McCarthy was nominated by the Law Society.
Dr Patrick Devitt
Dr Patrick Devitt is a Consultant Psychiatrist with considerable experience in medico-legal and forensic psychiatry. His career has involved treatment and assessment of prisoners both in Ireland and abroad.
Dr Devitt was nominated by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.
Dr Laura Mannion
Dr Mannion is a consultant psychiatrist and former Clinical Director with the HSE. She is a member of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and a Fellow of The Royal College of Psychiatrists. She has an extensive clinical background, has been a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry in NUIG, with ongoing involvement in training of Psychiatrists with the COPI. She was appointed as a member of the interim Parole Board in 2017.
Dr Mannion was nominated by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.
Dr Sharon Lambert
Dr Lambert joined the teaching staff in the School of Applied Psychology (UCC) in 2014 following a number of years working within community-based settings providing supports to socially excluded groups. Her research interests revolve primarily around the impact of trauma on development, its link with substance dependence and mental health and consequent considerations for service design and delivery. Dr Lambert conducts research with community-based partners such as addiction, homelessness, criminal justice and education organisations.
Dr Lambert was nominated by the Psychological Society of Ireland.
Mr Paul Murphy
Mr Murphy is a Clinical Psychologist and former Head of Psychology in the Irish Prison Service (IPS). On leaving the IPS, he worked for a number of years as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology in the UCD School of Psychology. He works as a Counsellor with New Directions supporting the families of those in prison. He is also a member of the board of the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI).
Dr Murphy was nominated by the Psychological Society of Ireland.
Ms Dolores Courtney
Ms Courtney works for the Irish Prison Service and has had considerable experience in dealing with prisoner sentence management.
Ms Courtney was nominated by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service.
Chief Superintendent Padraig Dunne
Chief Superintendent Dunne was nominated for membership of the Parole Board by the Garda Commissioner.
Ms Leah McCormack
Ms McCormack is an Assistant Principal/Probation Officer with the Probation Service and is Head of its Legal and Quality Assurance Unit. She was called to the Bar of Ireland in 2016.
Ms McCormack was nominated for membership of the Parole Board by the Director of the Probation Service.