Life sentence prisoners serve average of 17-and-a-half years in custody

Life sentence prisoners serve average of 17-and-a-half years in custody

Charlie Flanagan

Life sentence prisoners in Ireland serve an average of 17-and-a-half years in custody, according to the latest figures from the Parole Board.

The Parole Board reviewed 122 prisoners over the course of 2018 and recommended seven long-sentence prisoners for reviewable temporary release, according to its 2018 annual report.

Two released prisoners were returned to custody during 2018, one at his own request in the context of possible public safety concerns and the other following a charge of assault.

Launching the annual report, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “The provision of advice to me on the management of long-term prisoners’ sentences is a very complex and sensitive area.

“The actions of those who come before the Parole Board for consideration have had catastrophic and long-lasting consequences for the victims of the offences concerned and their families. There are no easy decisions in these matters.

“I would like to thank the chairman, Mr John Costello, and the members of the Board for this difficult and vital work.”

Legislation to set up an independent Parole Board was approved by the Oireachtas before the summer recess but has yet to be put into effect.

Under the Parole Act 2019, the final decision on whether to release a prisoner on parole will be made by the Board, rather than by the justice minister.

The new law also provides that prisoners serving life sentences will become eligible to be considered after 12 years, up from the current 7 years.

Mr Flanagan said: “I am very pleased that the ground-breaking piece of legislation to establish the Parole Board on a statutory basis was recently passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

“The reforms in the Parole Bill are designed to put the operation of the Parole Board on an independent, transparent and statutory footing and this will clearly set out how decisions on the granting, revoking and varying of parole orders will be made in the future.”

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