The paramount consideration for the Parole Board in every case is the safety of the community. It also sets out the following guiding principles:
- obligation to take into consideration all relevant available information, including the stated reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge, the nature and gravity of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the person whose parole is being considered, information from the trial or sentencing process and information obtained from victims, offenders and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by prison authorities or the probation services;
- provision of relevant information to persons being considered about decisions that concern them, how they may participate in decision-making;
- provision of reasons for decisions and appropriate access to the review of decisions in order to ensure a fair and transparent parole process.
- obligation to take due account of the position of any victims affected by any decision and any victim impact statement or submissions made by or on behalf of victims.
Criteria for Parole
The Board may grant parole to a person if in its opinion
- the person will not present an undue risk to society during the unexpired portion of the person’s sentence; and
- the release of the person will facilitate the reintegration of the prisoner into society as a law-abiding person.
The Ac addresses certain factors which the Board may have regard to in forming this opinion, The Board may have regard to the following factors:
- the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates;
- the sentence of imprisonment concerned and any recommendations of the court that imposed that sentence in relation thereto;
- the period of the sentence of imprisonment served by the person;
- the potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public (including the victim of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates) should the person be released from prison;
- any offence of which the person was convicted before being convicted of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by him relates;
- the risk of the person failing to return to prison upon the expiration of any period of temporary release;
- the conduct of the person while in custody, while previously the subject of a parole order, or during a period of temporary release pursuant to the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003;
- any report of, or recommendation made by the Prison governor, the Garda Síochána, a probation and welfare officer, or any other person whom the Board considers would be of assistance in enabling it to make a decision as to whether to make a parole order under section (22) that relates to the person concerned;
- the risk of the person committing an offence whilst on parole;
- the risk of the person failing to comply with any conditions attaching to his parole, and
- the likelihood that any period of parole might accelerate the person’s reintegration into society or improve his prospects of obtaining employment.
Persons serving sentence of more than eight years shall be eligible for a parole having served 1/2 of the sentence or after 7 years, whichever is lesser. A person serving a life sentence shall not be eligible for parole until that person has served a minimum period of eight years.
Where concurrent sentences have been imposed eligibility will be assessed by reference to the longest sentence. Where consecutive sentences have been imposed on a person eligibility will arose when a person has served one-half of the aggregate such sentences or ten years, whichever is the lesser period.
When imposing sentence upon a person, a sentencing judge may impose a specified period during which that person shall not be eligible for parole.
Persons convicted of certain offences are excluded from consideration for parole, such as an offence under section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1990 until the expiry of any minimum period specified under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1990.
Consideration for Parole
This section provides that the board must consider an eligible person for parole and schedule a review for that purpose within a 3-month period prior their eligibility date. The board may make a parole order subject to such conditions if it deems appropriate. An offender has no entitlement to be released on parole.
The Board may make an order only if it is satisfied on reasonable grounds that:
- the offender, if released on parole, will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community or any person or class of persons before the expiration according to law of the sentence the offender is serving; and
- the release of the offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender into society as a law-abiding citizen.
Parole orders shall have effect until the expiry of the sentence and may be subject to such other conditions as may be specified, having regard to the principles and criteria for parole set down in this Act.
A parole order may be subject, inter alia, to the following conditions:
that the person must reside at a specified place;
- that the person not associate with specified persons;
- that the person be subject to monitoring;
- that the person not engage in specified employment;
- that the person not be frequent certain locations;
- that the person not communicate with specified persons, and
- that the person not be permitted to travel outside the jurisdiction.
The Board may commission progress reports or require a person to attend a hearing, but that these powers may not be exercised more frequently that at 3-monthly intervals.
Variation of Parole Order
The Board may vary or discharge conditions of a parole order of its own motion or on the application of the Minister, an Garda Síochána or the person the subject of the parole order.
Before making such an order, the Board may seek information from anyone it considers may have an interest in the application. Such applications may be determined by way of review unless the person the subject of the order requests to appear or the Board wishes to hear from any person orally.
If a condition is varied, the variation takes effect from the date specified and notice must be given to the person the subject of the order, the Minister, an Garda Síochána and if practicable, any victim.
Revocation of Parole Order
The Board may of its own motion or on the application of the Minister or a Garda Chief Superintendent suspend or revoke a parole order if satisfied the person the subject of an order poses an undue risk or has breached his or her release conditions and the Board is satisfied revocation or suspension is appropriate.
A person shall be entitled to a hearing before a parole panel where it is proposed to revoke or suspend the parole order.
The Board shall have the power to make interim orders suspending a parole order with immediate effect and to issue a warrant recommitting the person to custody pending a review or hearing. Where an interim suspension order is made, the Board shall strive to schedule a hearing within 35 days.
If a person is sentenced to imprisonment – unless the entire sentence so imposed is suspended – the parole order shall stand revoked.
If person’s parole is revoked they shall be liable to serve the remainder of their sentence, in accordance with the Prison Rules. If the person is serving a life sentence, they shall not be considered again for parole for a further period of two years.
Where the Board revokes a parole order the Board may by warrant, signed by the chairperson, authorise a member of An Garda Síochána to apprehend the prisoner and return the prisoner to prison.
The chairperson may to sign warrants authorising An Garda Síochána to apprehend a person released on parole if the Board has reasonable cause to suspect there are grounds justifying the suspension or revocation of a parole order.
These powers may be exercised without holding a review or hearing.If urgency requires, the powers can be exercised by the Chairperson acting alone.
If a prisoner is returned to prison after the execution of a warrant against that prisoner, the Board shall, within 21 days, schedule a hearing and afford the person an opportunity to be heard.
Preparation for Hearings
The Board is required to notify the person being considered, the Minister, the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and the governor of the relevant prison and the victim.
When notifying victims that a review or hearing is pending the Board shall explain the procedures and how the victim may participate.
The Minister is required to provide certain relevant information to the Board 5 weeks in advance of the review or hearing, and the Board shall endeavour to make information available to the person whose parole is being considered 2 weeks in advance of the review or hearing. Any person notified under this section shall also be entitled to make submissions.
The Board shall ensure that no information is given to the person whose parole is being considered that discloses the address or contact details of any victim. The Board may also in exceptional circumstances restrict a person’s access to material if it may prejudice their mental or physical health, but in such cases it may be considered by their legal representatives.