Thursday, 11 July 2019
Parole Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages
I would like to make a brief point on section 2. I welcome the Minister of State to the House and wish to say, as I did on Second Stage, how much I welcome the Bill on behalf of Labour Senators, although I regret that it is being rushed through so swiftly. I did not table amendments because the Dáil will not be sitting tomorrow and will therefore be unable to accept any Seanad amendments, but I will support the amendments tabled by my colleague, Senator Ruane. I have a number of points to raise regarding specific sections of the Bill and, given that we cannot address them this week due to time constraints, I hope they will addressed at a future date if necessary.
One of these points relates to two aspects of section 2(1) of the Bill, which I will raise now and then raise again in the context of later sections. Section 2(1) comprises definitions or interpretations. Section 2(1) defines a "legal representative" as "a practising solicitor or a practising barrister". I am grateful to my fellow barrister and colleague, Tony McGillicuddy, for raising with me in a personal capacity an issue arising from that definition. He points out that, given that the definition refers to a practising solicitor or a practising barrister, it is unclear whether later references to legal representatives in the Bill preclude the appointment of a barrister and a solicitor to represent a parolee where that is required. To explain this issue in more detail, the Bill allows for legal representation at parole hearings by a legal representative as defined in section 2(1), which is very welcome. There is also provision in section 14 for legal aid to be provided for the legal representative. The issue I am raising, and on which I seek clarity from the Minister of State, is whether "legal representative" should be read to mean either a barrister or a solicitor or whether it might be possible for victims to be represented by both in some cases, as is generally the case in contentious matters. Parole hearings might be said not to be contentious, but clearly they could be. This should really be clarified.
The specific provision to which I am referring is section 14(1), which again makes reference to legal representatives. This reference is made in the context of the application. The section is titled "Procedures of Board". Section 14(1)(a) refers to the granting of legal aid. Sections 14(1)(c) and 14(1)(d) enable the relevant person and his or her legal representative to attend a meeting with the board. Later in the Bill there are provisions allowing persons seeking parole to apply on their own behalf. I seek clarity as to whether it is possible for legal representatives to make applications on their behalf. Again I am grateful to Tony McGillicuddy for pointing this out. There seems to be a discrepancy between section 31 of the Bill and section 26(3). Section 31(2) enables an application to be made by a person or on his or her behalf to vary a parole order whereas section 26(3), which refers to applications for parole, does not make express provision for applications to made on behalf of a person. This seems somewhat anomalous given that legal representation is, rightly, provided for.
I have raised the issue of whether "legal representative" must be read as a single representative or whether it could include both a solicitor and a barrister where necessary but there is also the issue of whether applications can be made by a lawyer on behalf of a parolee. There might be particular cases in which people would want their lawyer to make the application on their behalf, as they are empowered to do under section 31 in the case of applications to vary parole orders. I have made a number of points. They relate to different provisions of the Bill but, as section 2(1) contains the definition of "legal representative", now seemed a good time to raise them.
Another issue, which I will raise later and which I raised on Second Stage, is the issue of whether the definition of "parolee" includes a child who has been sentenced to life. The Irish Penal Reform Trust has rightly raised concern about the 12-year minimum, which it believes is too high a bar for a child serving a life sentence. I will raise that issue again when we come to section 24 as that is the more appropriate place to discuss it but I looked again at section 2 and there is no distinction made in the definitions in respect of parolees who are minors. An amendment could have been tabled in that respect had this Bill not been rushed through at this late stage. I welcome the Bill and I will not stand in its way. I am just putting down markers as to issues that could have been dealt with better had we had a little more time to deal with the Bill, given that three years have now passed since it was first introduced.