Report into determination of life sentences

Irish Human Rights Commission recommends placing Parole Board on a statutory footing

The Irish Human Rights Commission has recommended to the Government that the Parole Board be placed on a statutory footing in order to make Ireland compliant with its obligations under European human rights law.

The recommendation was contained in a letter from the President of the IHRC, Dr. Maurice Manning, to the Tanáiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell. Accompanying the letter was a report on Determination of Life Sentences by Professor J. Paul McCutcheon and Dr Gerard Coffey commissioned by the IHRC.

The principal conclusion of the Report is that current Irish law does not comply with European human rights law. Evaluating Irish practice in the determination of life sentences in the context of the European Convention of Human Rights and the associated jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, the authors of the Report find that "Irish law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights in a number of respects"

Prof. McCutcheon and Dr. Coffey go on to outline the principal areas of concern "Firstly, the question of release in Ireland is an executive matter whereas the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees a right of review by a court or "court like" body. Secondly, the Parole Board is not a "court like" body, as that concept is understood in European human rights law. The Parole Board’s role is merely advisory but the Convention demands that the review body has the power to determine cases. Thirdly, the Irish courts will quash an executive decision on release on the limited grounds that it is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable; the Convention requires a broader form of review that is not satisfied by the domestic remedy of judicial review".

"The Commission endorses the position taken in the Report that, as it is currently structured, the Parole Board fails to meet the necessary requirements but if the Board were to be placed on a statutory footing and assigned the function of determining applications for temporary release, rather than merely advising the Minister, Irish law would be brought into harmony with the European Convention of Human Rights" stated the President of the IHRC, Dr. Maurice Manning.

Dr. Manning states "in conclusion the IHRC advises the enactment of legislation placing the Parole Board on a statutory footing and assigning to it the function of determining applications for temporary release"

This report is available by clicking on the below link;

http://www.ihrc.ie/documents/article.asp?NID=186&NCID=2&T=N&Print=

Spokespersons are available for interview.

For further information, please contact:

Mary Ruddy

Senior Human Rights Awareness Officer

Irish Human Rights Commission.

Jervis House,

Jervis Street,

Dublin 1.
Tel. : 01 8589 601
E-mail: info@ihrc.ie
Website : http://www.ihrc.ie

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