Irish Penal Reform Trust

Parole Board Annual Report 2019

30th November 2020

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has published the Parole Board Annual Report 2019.

The Parole Board's principal function is to advise the Minister for Justice in relation to the administration of long-term prison sentences. This may depend on the prisoner’s progress to date, their degree of engagement with therapeutic services, conduct in prison, the nature of the offence, etc. The final decision regarding the recommendations of the Parole Board lies with the Minister, who can accept them in their entirety, in part, or reject them.

Key figures for 2019:

  • The beginning of 2019 saw the highest caseload for the Parole Board in 5 years
  • Of 117 prisoners reviewed by the Parole Board in 2019, 32 cases prisoners had their cases reviewed for the first time while the remaining 85 were reviewed for a second or subsequent time
  • 17 life sentence prisoners were recommended for release by the Parole Board in 2019
  • The average time served in custody for a life sentence in 2019 was about 20 years (ranging from 14 to 28 years); this is a slight increase from a 17.5 year average in 2018
  • Of the 117 cases reviewed in 2019, none were reviewed ahead of schedule. 5 were dealt with within 3 months of their review date, 15 were dealt with within 6 months of same review date, and the remaining 97 (83%) were dealt with more than 6 months after their review date 

Publishing the report, Minister McEntee reemphasised her commitment to establishing the new Parole Board, under the Parole Act 2019.

Key changes under the Act:

  • The Parole Board will now be placed on an independent statutory footing
  • The Board’s final decisions will now be made independent of the Minister
  • The length of sentence which must be served by life-sentenced prisoners before they are eligible to be considered for parole will increase from 7 to 12 years

In his Foreword, the Chairman of the Parole Board outlined key challenges for the Parole Board when the Parole Act 2019 comes into operation (as presented to the Minister in June 2020):

  • Delays: It is essential for the new Parole Board to have authority to obtain necessary reports from relevant agencies in a timely manner
  • Sentence management recommendations: Where parole is refused it is essential that the new Board continue to highlight the necessary rehabilitation for the relevant prisoner before their next review
  • Visits to prison: Despite COVID-19 the new Board should attempt to continue to visit life sentence prisoners to incentivise rehabilitation work
  • Parole Liaison Officers (PLOs): These should exist in every prison
  • Training for Board members: Appropriate training for their role essential
  • Victims’ families: Important that the new Board issue guidelines regarding the participation of victims’ families in the parole process under the new Act.

Read the Parole Board Annual Report 2019 here.

You can read more about parole in Ireland the Parole Act 2019 here.

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