The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., today published the Annual Report of the Parole Board for 2011.
In publishing the report, the Minister said "I would like to thank the Board's Chairman, Mr. John Costello, and members of the Board for their report. Theirs is an important role which is much valued and appreciated. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Board in helping to encourage all prisoners eligible to participate in the parole process”. The Minister also paid tribute to Mr Patrick Crummey RIP who sadly passed away a short time ago and who made an important contribution during his tenure.
The Parole Board's principal function is to advise the Minister on the administration of long term prison sentences in respect of prisoners who are serving sentences greater than eight years. The Board, by way of recommendation to the Minister, advises of the prisoner's progress to date, the degree to which the prisoner has engaged with the various therapeutic services and how best to proceed with the future administration of the sentence. All recommendations are considered in full when making the final decision on sentence management.
As explained in their report, the total caseload of the Board in 2011 was 205 - a combination of new cases and cases at second or subsequent review stage. The Board reviewed the cases of 89 prisoners in 2011, with recommendations made to the Minister in respect of 88 cases reviewed. One recommendation was deferred until 2012. The majority of those recommendations (85) were accepted in full by the Minister.
The Board also comment on the number of prisoners who declined to participate in the process adding that it has to try to incentivise prisoners to participate in that process and with rehabilitation services generally. During the next year, the chairman reports that the Board hopes to develop an information and education programme for prisoners on the benefits of engaging with the Board.
The Minister previously announced plans to enact legislation to place the Parole Board on a statutory footing. This will help strengthen the Parole Board and improve its functions. Speaking further Minister Shatter said "My Department is currently considering exactly what role a statutory Parole Board should play, what powers it should have, and the implications of same with a view to preparing the Heads of a Bill. I will make a further announcement in due course."
The Minister also announced the appointments of Mr. William Connolly, Mr. Eddie Rock, Ms. Nora McGarry and the re-appointment of Mr. Shane McCarthy to the Parole Board.
The Minister welcomed the contribution that the new members will make to the Board and commented on the wealth of experience and knowledge they will bring to their roles. The Minister said “I believe that theirs is an important role which is much valued. I wish them well and look forward to them advancing the work of the Board during their tenure. ”
The Minister added “I would also like to acknowledge the work of the outgoing members in helping to encourage all eligible prisoners to participate in the parole process and to thank them for their contribution in that respect.”
The report is available on the Department's website www.justice.ie