In light of the continuing developments in relation to the public health crisis associated with COVID-19, the Parole Commissioner of Northern Ireland issued guidance that all parole hearings at prisons and at Shannon Clinic were to stop until further notice.
Following the commencement of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and due to the fact that our client had an upcoming parole hearing scheduled, our office wrote to the Chief Commissioner highlighting the new discretionary powers attributed to him to conduct any or all of the proceedings remotely by way of live-link.
In considering the application made by us in this case, the Panel decided that they would continue with the hearing as is scheduled for this week, despite the current guidance issued.
Michael Halleron of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, who represents the applicant in this case today said:
“This case will very much be a ‘test case’, the first of its kind under the Coronavirus Act 2020 provisions.
“It will assist the Commissioners in determining whether or not parole hearings can re-commence during this time.
“Whilst the decision to stop Parole Hearings was made in light of the public health crisis associated with COVID-19, we as lawyers representing prisoners must ensure that despite these uncontrollable impediments, the parole process continues to function as normally and fairly as possible.
“Especially in circumstances where prisoners who ought to be released on parole, could end up being left in custody until this crisis ends.”