Contact Jim:   |   Phone: 01 475 89 43   |   37 South Richmond Street   |
Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay South

Time to take the politics out of the parole system

Letter published in The Irish Times 11 February 2015

Dear Sir,

Dr Diarmuid Griffin’s research published in this newspaper yesterday 
offers a timely opportunity for the Government to take appropriate action
 to improve the integrity of our criminal justice system.  A body which 
performs functions as important as the Parole Board – advising as to 
whether to release convicted killers and rapists – should be clearly
 defined and organised in our statute law.

Legislation to put the Parole Board on a statutory basis would have to
provide carefully for the membership of the Board, the criteria that could
be used for granting parole, the offences not covered by the parole 
process and the protections that would be afforded to the community should
 a decision be made to permit a prisoner back early into the community.

The Government’s failure to place the Parole Board on a statutory basis 
means that the important functions played by that Board are denied the 
force of law and merely constitute a form of advice provided by it to the 
Minister. This is particularly problematic since  prisoners who believe
 they have an entitlement to parole can seek to avail of the Courts to 
achieve that entitlement.  More fundamentally, there is something
incoherent in having a member of the Cabinet and the Oireachtas making
decisions in respect of matters that were initially decided upon by the
judiciary. It is a practice that offends the principle of separation of
powers that keeps politicians away from those functions which are the
preserve of the courts.

The sentencing of convicted prisoners is an integral part of our criminal
 justice system. For victims of serious crime, it constitutes justice being 
done.  The ad hoc basis upon which parole is granted in Ireland and the
 ultimate control of this system by a politician is an outdated way of
 operating this important aspect of our criminal justice system.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Jim O’Callaghan

City Hall

Dublin 2

Fianna Fáil