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Lifers must serve 12 years before parole eligibility, up from seven
Minister Heather Humphreys

11 Aug 2021 / justice Print

Lifers must serve 12 years before parole, up from seven

A new Parole Board has been established, and the Parole Act 2019 has come into effect. The funding allocation has also doubled to €1.3 million this year.

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, based on clear and transparent criteria.

The new law sets out clearly how decisions on granting, revoking and varying parole orders will be made. Parole can be granted only 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.

Legal assistance to victims

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.

The board will be independent of the minister of the day.

The time which must be served by a life-sentence prisoner before being considered for parole has now increased to 12 years, compared with the previous seven 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.

Justice minister Heather Humphreys has also named nine new parole board members, led by Mr Justice Michael White, who was nominated in February by Chief Justice Frank Clarke as the inaugural chair.

Minister Humphreys said: “The Parole Board plays a vital role in the justice system. Transparency and accountability are 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.

Initial hearing

“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 years 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,” she said.

Mr Justice White said that he was honoured to take on the role.

“The legislation underpinning the board’s functions is excellent and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to implement it,” he said, thanking the legislators involved.

Following a Public Appointments Service (State Boards) selection process, the minister recently appointed Ann Reade, Paddy Richardson and Kieran Kenny, bringing the total membership to 13.

An interim chief executive has been appointed, pending a full-time appointment. 

The members are:  

  • Mr Justice Michael White 

Mr Justice Michael 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 ten years in the High Court,

  • Dr Shane McCarthy

Dr Shane 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, and has undertaken extensive research on the operation of parole in Ireland and internationally. He was nominated by the Law Society,

  • Ann Reade

Ann Reade is a CORU-registered social worker, who previously worked in the Probation Service and, most recently, with Tusla,

  • Kieran Kenny

Kieran Kenny holds a BA, an Adv Dip Mgt  and an M Sc (UCD), and is a former assistant commissioner of An Garda Síochána. He is the current chair of Victim Support at Court (V-SAC),

  • Paddy Richardson

Paddy 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,

  • Sinéad McMullan BL

Sinéad 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, and was nominated by the General Council of the Bar of Ireland,

  • 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 Laura Mannion is a consultant psychiatrist and former clinical director with the HSE. She was nominated by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland,

  • Dr Sharon Lambert

Dr Sharon Lambert joined the teaching staff in the School of Applied Psychology (UCC) in 2014. Her research interests are the impact of trauma on development, its link with substance dependence and mental health, and consequent considerations for service design and delivery. Dr Lambert was nominated by the Psychological Society of Ireland,

  • Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy is a clinical psychologist and former Head of Psychology in the Irish Prison Service (IPS). Dr Murphy was nominated by the Psychological Society of Ireland,

  • Dolores Courtney

Dolores Courtney works for the Irish Prison Service and has had considerable experience in dealing with prisoner-sentence management. She 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,

  • Leah McCormack

Leah 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. She was nominated by the Director of the Probation Service.

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