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73 criminals with life sentences out free in community

Some 73 people convicted of murder, rape and manslaughter are walking the streets this weekend having been released over the past number of years.

In a practise that has been heavily criticised dozens of offenders with life sentences are enjoying their liberty much to the distress of their victims' relatives.

"It is worrying that there are currently 73 people with life sentences out on open licence," said John O'Keeffe, special advisor to AdVIC (Advocates for Victims of Homicide). "It reinforces the fact that the only people who really serve life sentences are victims' families, who are robbed of their loved ones."

Of those 73 'lifers', it is understood that two of them are now living abroad. A 'lifer' does not have to be in Ireland once they have been released but they must first seek permission to leave the jurisdiction from the prison service.

Anthony Kiely, received a life sentence for the murder of his then girlfriend Catherine Kealy in 1992. He is currently on release. Lorcan Bale murdered his neighbour in 1973 and was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released seven years later. And in 2012 double-killer Malcolm MacArthur was released from prison after serving 30 years behind bars.


Currently in Ireland the average life sentence is approximately 18 years, according to the Irish Prison Services. A prisoner serving life is eligible to have their case reviewed after seven years in custody.

Mr O'Keeffe said this was a "burden for victims' families as they have to live with the knowledge that their loved one's killer could potentially walk free."

As of yesterday there were 4.953 people in the Irish prison system with 3,771 of them behind bars and 676 were on temporary release.

The lifers are not classed as on temporary release. Those criminals were on "reviewable temporary release".

"It is important to note that a life sentence is indeterminate and there is no guaranteed release date," said a spokesman for the Irish Prison Services.

"However, it does not always mean life in prison. Persons released into the community continue to serve their sentences, subject to conditions, while on release."

Any of these 73 'lifers' can be returned to prison immediately if they breach their parole.