If you are a prisoner in Ireland serving a life sentence or a long term sentence, the issue of your early release from prison may be considered by the Parole Board of Ireland.
The Board, which replaced the Sentence Review Group, was established on an administrative basis in 2001. The Board's principal function is to advise the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the administration of long-term prison sentences.
There are approximately ten members of the Board, including the head of the Probation Service; the Medical Director of the Central Mental Hospital; senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality and various community representatives.
The Parole Board reviews the cases of prisoners sentenced to determinate (fixed-term) sentences of 8 years or more (but less than 14 years) at half sentence stage. Prisoners sentenced to 14 years or more, (including life) are reviewed after 7 years have been served. Prisoners serving sentences for certain offences (see 'Rules' section below), are excluded from the process. (In other words, they cannot apply for parole).
The Board advises the Minister of the prisoner's progress to date, the degree to which the prisoner has engaged with the various therapeutic services and how best to proceed with the future administration of the sentence.
Where a prisoner is not recommended by the Board for release, a second or further review of their case will generally take place on an annual basis if the prisoner is serving less than 10 years for an offence. Prisoners who have not been recommended by the Board for release and who are serving more than 10 years, will generally receive subsequent reviews every 3 years.
Further information including the number and type of cases referred to the Parole Board, the nature of offences and institutions in which prisoners are held is available in the Annual Report of the Parole Board of Ireland
Prisoners guilty of the following offences are not (as a general principle) eligible for review by the Parole Board:
In making its recommendations, the Parole Board of Ireland considers a number of factors, which include:
The final decision regarding the recommendations of the Parole Board lies with the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Minister can choose to accept the Board's recommendations in their entirety, accept them in part or reject them.
In deciding on the release of a prisoner with a life sentence, the Minister will always consider the advice and recommendations of the Parole Board. The Board, at present, initially reviews prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment at the seven-year stage of their sentence.
Prisoners serving very long sentences, including life sentences, are normally reviewed on a number of occasions over a number of years before any substantial concessions would be recommended by the Board. The final decision as to whether a prisoner with a life sentence should be released rests with the Minister for Justice and Equality.
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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.