253. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of key pieces of legislation in the penal system including the criminal justice (community sanctions) Bill, the Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016 and the Parole Bill 2016 [25251/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill
The Government has approved the drafting of a Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill to replace the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 with modern provisions dealing with community sanctions and the role of the Probation Service in the criminal justice system. The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. This Bill is at an early stage in the drafting process and as such it is not possible to estimate a timeframe for publication.
Prisons (Solitary Confinement) Bill
The Prisons (Solitary Confinement) Bill is a Private Members' Bill and as such is not within the responsibilities of the Department of Justice and Equality.
However, in respect of the subject matter of the Bill, Statutory Instrument 276 of 2017 amended Rule 27 of the Prison Rules 2007. The purpose of this amendment was to provide a statutory entitlement to prisoners for a minimum of two hours out-of-cell time daily. The means by which this Statutory Instrument is implemented is contained within the Irish Prison Service Policy on the Elimination of Solitary Confinement, which is publicly available on their website
This 2017 amendment brings the Irish prison system into line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as ‘Mandela Rules’) in respect of solitary confinement.
The Parole Bill is a Private Members' Bill. The Government agreed in April 2017 to progress the objective of establishing an independent Parole Board on a statutory footing by bringing forward appropriate amendments to the Bill.
As well as providing for the establishment of the new Parole Board, the Bill sets out the criteria to be considered in deciding on the release of prisoners and how the decision to release should be made.
Officials in my Department have been preparing detailed amendments in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government, and in consultation with the Deputy. It is my intention to seek Government approval for these amendments very shortly, with a view to the Bill being brought to this House again for debate before the summer recess.