Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee T.D. welcomes publication of the statutory Parole Board’s first Annual Report 2021/2022
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has today welcomed publication of the statutory Parole Board’s first Annual Report. The Parole Board Annual Report 2021/2022 covers a period of significant change and development for parole in Ireland since the Parole Act 2019 was enacted by Minister McEntee in 2021.
Speaking about the publication Minister McEntee said:
“I am very pleased to see the publication of the Parole Board’s first Annual Report, two years since I established it as an independent, statutory body.
“This is an important milestone and I want to thank the Chief Executive, Ciairín de Buis, all the staff of Parole Board, the Chairperson, Mr Justice Michael White and the members of the Board for their hard work and commitment.”
During the first year and a half of its operation a considerable amount of preparatory work was undertaken by the Board relating to the new processes, applications and corporate governance.
Under the reforms enacted by Minister McEntee, by law, a person must have served at least 12 years of their life sentence before the Board can grant or refuse a parole application.
The parole process provided for by the Act consists of a number of steps that must be complied with before a review of a given case can occur. Under the new statutory parole process, victims have a formal right to make submissions to the Parole Board in relation to the offender’s application for parole.
As part of the parole process, both victims and parole applicants may have access to legal representation, requiring the Parole Board to establish a Legal Aid Scheme and form a panel of suitably qualified solicitors and barristers to provide legal assistance where the relevant parties express a desire for this.
Minister McEntee continued:
“The increased emphasis on victim engagement in the parole process has led the Parole Board to actively seek to engage with relevant victims and, when possible, ascertain whether the victim wishes to make a submission to the Parole Board or not. While this has proved to be challenging the Board has done significant work in developing its victim engagement process since its establishment.
In particular the ‘My Voice Counts/Your Voice Counts’ information campaign launched by the Parole Board in November 2022 was a very welcome development.”
Significant steps were also taken in communicating with parole applicants and life-sentenced prisoners. As well as distributing information about parole, members of the Parole Board held 10 information sessions in the relevant prisons across the country to discuss and explain the parole process.
The report also notes that strong working relationships, reporting protocols and the smooth exchange of information, have been developed with the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service (including the IPS Psychology Services), An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service, throughout 2021 and 2022.
Speaking about the publication Chief Executive of the Parole Board, Ciairín de Buis said:
“I am pleased and privileged to present this Annual Report on the work of the Parole Board, the first since our statutory establishment, during 2021-2022. I would like to thank the chairperson of the Parole Board, Mr Justice Michael White, the members of the Board, and my colleagues for their hard work and commitment. They bring a remarkable commitment and compassion to work that they do which is difficult, complex and challenging.
The process of parole has changed significantly with the introduction of the Parole Act 2019. I would like to thank the applicants and victims who have placed their trust in us –an independent parole board which protects the community, is fair to applicants and listens to victims.”
Note to Editors
The Parole Board was established as a statutory body under the Parole Act 2019 (the Act) on 31st July 2021. Under this legislation, the Parole Board makes its decisions to grant or refuse parole independently from the Minister for Justice, replacing the former Interim Parole Board which had been in place since 2001. The Annual Report covers the period from the Board’s statutory inception on 31 July 2021 to 31 December 2022.
Under section 10 of the Parole Act 2019, the Board shall consist of no fewer than 12 and no more than 15 in number and Board members are appointed by the Minister. Board membership includes nominees of theChief Justice, General Council of the Bar of Ireland, Law Society of Ireland, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Psychological Society of Ireland, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Director of the Probation Service.
By law, a person must have served at least 12 years of their life sentence before the Board can grant or refuse a parole application.
Highlights of 2021 and 2022 include:
- The formal establishment of the Board on 31st July 2021.
- Appointment of Chairperson and Board Members 10th August 2021.
- The establishment of a Legal Aid Scheme and the forming of a panel to provide legal assistance to both victims and parole applicants.
- Data-sharing agreements put in place with relevant stakeholders.
- The Board began reviewing applications in June 2022.
- 4 Board meetings were held in 2021.
- 13 Board meetings in 2022.
- 22 parole applications reviewed and decided upon in 2022.
- 1 person was released on parole in 2022.
- 10 information sessions were held in the relevant prisons across the country.
- 223 prisoners (out of 247 eligible prisoners) applied for parole by the end of December 2022.
- 'My Voice Counts/Your Voice Counts’ information campaign for victims launched in November 2022. The campaign consisted of advertisements in a range of national and local newspapers, digital displays, as well as 30-second ads on national and local radio stations and podcasts.
- At the end of 2022, the Board was engaging with 291 victims in 105 applications for parole.
- A range of training was delivered to staff including training in trauma awareness, disability awareness, autism awareness, data protection and plain English.
Factors considered by the Board in the decision to grant or refuse parole
Section 27 of the Parole Act, 2019 sets out the items for consideration by the Parole Board when determining the suitability of an applicant for parole.
Principally, the Board must be satisfied that the applicant would pose no undue risk to the safety and security of the public and that they are capable of being reintegrated into society.
In addition, section 27(2) outlines a number of factors which must also be considered by the Board such as the nature and gravity of the offence,
- the recommendations of the sentencing court,
- any other offences which the applicant was convicted of,
- the conduct of the applicant while serving his/her sentence and during any previous period of release,
- concerns relating to compliance with parole conditions, treatment or training which the applicant has undergone,
- submissions made by or on behalf of the applicant
- submissions made by or on behalf of the relevant victim, and
- any other matter which the Board considers appropriate.
The Parole Board is entirely independent in the discharge of this function.