Friday 24 November 2017

FF proposes taking power to grant parole away from Justice Minister

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Government will not oppose a Fianna Fáil bid to take away the power of Justice Ministers to decide whether or not a prisoner will get parole.

The party's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan is to table a motion in the Dáil today to strengthen the powers of the Parole Board and end what he called the "inappropriate" situation that sees the Justice Minister having the final say on early release.

He said the system he was proposing would not be dependent on party politics.

"We could find ourselves in the future where you have, perhaps, a Sinn Féin Minister for Justice and wouldn't you want to have a situation where they would not be making decisions on the release of individuals from Portlaoise?" he asked.

Despite using this example, he said he had sent the proposed bill to Sinn Féin for their consideration as he seeks cross-party support.

"It's inappropriate that politicians have the final say as to whether or not a prisoner gets parole. It should be a decision based on a fair and transparent statutory scheme presided over by an independent body," Mr O'Callaghan said.

Currently, the Parole Board only advises the minister. The Fianna Fáil bill proposes to place the Parole Board on a statutory basis, providing for the membership of the board and setting out the criteria that can be used for granting parole as well as the offences not covered.

It also sets out the protections that would be afforded to the local community if a decision was made to permit a prisoner to return early to his or her community, Mr O'Callaghan said.

The Fianna Fáil bill was discussed at Cabinet and a spokesman indicated that it would not be opposed by the Government.

Irish Independent

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