The Parole Bill 2016 has today (Thursday, 11 July 2019) passed through both houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill, when signed and enacted, will place the Parole Board on an independent statutory footing, with the power to make final decisions on the release of eligible prisoners.
IPRT welcomes the passage of the Bill, having long campaigned for the establishment of an independent parole board on a statutory basis. This was a recommendation of the Law Reform Commission (2013), the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality (2013) and the Penal Policy Review Group (2014).
IPRT welcomes the constructive cross-party engagement on this important legislation, which was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Deputy Jim O’Callaghan TD, and supported by government.
The Bill introduces new provisions including access to legal representation for parole candidates and for victims, and a role for the Parole Board in providing information to victims and the general public in relation to its functions. The Bill also increases to 12 years the number of years before a life-sentenced person becomes eligible for parole. Given this increase (from 7 years), it is important that sentence planning and rehabilitative work begins early in a life sentence, and is not delayed until the first parole review is scheduled.
The Oireachtas debates on the Bill raised a number of important questions around the mandatory life sentence for murder, and the importance of achieving clarity on custodial periods for victims and for offenders. IPRT looks forward to the Law Reform Commission’s project on structured sentencing, included in its 5th Programme of Law Reform. This will provide an important forum for setting out the sentencing principles that should underpin sentencing in Ireland.
The Bill, as passed by Dáil Éireann, is available here.
For more information on IPRT’s work on parole, see: http://www.iprt.ie/parole