The Commissioners

The role of the Parole Commissioners is defined by the legislation under which they operate. Chapter 7 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008 states that in discharging their functions, including those defined in the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001, the Parole Commissioners shall –

(a) have due regard to the need to protect the public from serious harm; and

(b) have regard to the desirability of –

     (i) securing the rehabilitation of prisoners; and

     (ii) preventing the commission of further offences by prisoners.

The Parole Commissioners are required to advise the Department of Justice in regard to any matter connected with the release or recall of prisoners referred to them under the Order or under the Life Sentences (NI) Order 2001.

There are currently 39 Commissioners who all work on a part-time basis. The Chief Commissioner is Ms Christine Glenn.

There are 16 legally qualified Commissioners; 12 from a psychology/psychiatry background; and 11 who have relevant backgrounds in criminology, probation, etc. Please find below short biopics on each of the Commissioners.

Chief Commissioner

Mr Paul Mageean qualified as a solicitor in 1991 and was originally in private practice. In 1995 he joined the Committee on the Administration of Justice as their Legal Officer during which time he successfully brought a number of cases to the European Court of Human Rights. He was Head of the Criminal Justice Secretariat of the Court Service from 2004, and joined the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland in 2005.  He was the Director of the Graduate School for Professional Legal Education at the University of Ulster from 2008 until his appointment in September 2013 as Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast.

Commissioners from a Legal Background

Mrs Anne Fenton MBE has been a qualified solicitor since 1978.  She was Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast from 1998 to 2013.  She is currently a part-time legal member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and has previously held appointments as part-time Chairperson to both the Child Support and Disability Appeal Tribunals.  In January 2014 she was appointed Under-Treasurer of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland.

Ms Clodach McGrory practiced at the Bar in Northern Ireland from 1990 to 1995 and subsequently worked at the Law Centre (NI). She was a member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights from 1998 to 1999 and served a term of office on the Irish Human Rights Commission from December 2000 until August 2006. She was a member of the Prison Review Team which was appointed by the Minister of Justice in June 2011 to conduct a comprehensive review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service and reported in October 2012.  She is currently a part-time Chairperson of Social Security Appeal Tribunals and has been a Life Sentence Review Commissioner/Parole Commissioner since 2001.  Ms McGrory was appointed Chairperson of the Sentence Review Commissioners on the 21 January 2013.

Professor John Jackson is a professor of Law at the University of Nottingham and a qualified barrister.  He was previously Dean of the School of Law at University College Dublin and has taught at several other universities including Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Sheffield, the City University, London and University College Cardiff.  He has held visiting professorships at Hastings College of the Law, University of California and the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales and was a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in 2007 – 2008. From 1998 to 2000 he was an Independent Assessor for the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Review and he has been a Sentence Review Commissioner since 2012.

Mr Jeremy Mills qualified as a solicitor in 1990.  He spent 15 years with a firm of corporate solicitors in Belfast and was a partner for 10 years.  Between 2007 and 2012 Jeremy served as a part time Legal Chairman of the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal. From 2008 to 2012 he was also a member of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Independent Review of Decisions Panel.  He joined the Board of Bryson Charitable Group in 2008 as a non-executive Director and served as a Director for 10 years. In 2009 he was appointed to Transport NI’s panel of independent Public Inquiry Inspectors. He is also a non-executive Director of the Odyssey Trust Company.

Mrs Anne Grimes qualified as a solicitor in 1990. She worked at Law Centre (NI) for 12 years. She was appointed as an Immigration Judge of the First-tier Tribunal in 2002 and also as a Deputy Judge of the Upper Tribunal in 2010. In 2007 she was appointed a part time Legal Chairman of the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal. She is also a Sentence Review Commissioner.

Mr John F. Gibbons qualified as a solicitor in 1991, and runs his own law firm, which he established in 1995.  He was originally appointed a member of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2009 and was reappointed for a third term, in 2015. He was a trustee board member and treasurer of Citizens Advice, Belfast, between 2008 and 2014. In 2010 he was appointed a legal chairman of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Independent Appeals panel and in 2012 he was appointed legal chair to the Pharmaceutical Society for Northern Ireland’s Fitness to Practice scrutiny committee.  He was sworn in as a Legal Member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Northern Ireland, in January 2015.

Ms Maura Hutchinson qualified as a solicitor in 1996 and worked for a number of years in a City of London legal practice.  She set up and managed a grant-giving programme (Awards for All) in the charity and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland and was a solicitor at Law Centre (NI) until 2010.  Maura has been a part-time judge of the First Tier Tribunal - Immigration and Asylum Chamber since 2006 and was appointed as a deputy judge of the Upper Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber in 2015. She was appointed as an Adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Northern Ireland in 2006.   Maura was appointed as a part-time Chairperson of the Social Security Appeal Tribunals in 2014 and as a part-time legal member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in 2015.   Until 2015 she acted as a lay member for the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency.

Mrs Marian Killen was admitted as a solicitor in 1978 and took up post as Assistant Crown Solicitor from 2007 – 2017. She was appointed as a Deputy District Judge (civil) in the County Court and a Deputy Master in the High Court in 2009.  She is a trained Mediator and a Solicitor Advocate. She was appointed as a Legal Assessor to the NMC in 2016 and appointed as a Chair of the HCPC  in 2017.

Mr James Scholes qualified as a barrister in 1973. He was appointed Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in 2008 and served as Acting Director of Public Prosecutions from 2009 to 2011. He was appointed a Civil Service Commissioner in 2012 and he currently serves on the Board of Chest Heart and Stroke.

Mr Niall Small qualified as a Solicitor in 1992.  He worked in private practice for 10 years before becoming a founding partner in the firm of Small & Marken Solicitors in Antrim.  He has been reappointed to the Guardian Ad Litem Solicitor Panel in Northern Ireland and has recently been appointed as a legal chair of the HSCB Disciplinary Committee for Dental, Optometry and Pharmaceutical services. He is a trained mediator and has qualified as a Solicitor Advocate.  He has held several positions with a number of voluntary organisations throughout Northern Ireland.

Mr Timothy Thorne qualified as a barrister in 1987. He practiced mainly in the fields of criminal defence and prosecution. He was a Deputy (part-time) Judge Advocate sitting in Courts Martial and is a fee-paid judge in the First Tier Tribunal, Asylum & Immigration Chamber and Care Standards. He was also a Deputy Chairperson of the National Health Service Tribunal and a consultant trainer to the Inns of Court School of Law in London. He is also presently a non-Executive Director of a legal training company working throughout the UK and abroad.

Mr Martin O’Brien has been a practising barrister at the Bar of NI for 28 years, specialising in employment and discrimination law. He has a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Emergency Law. From 1999-2018 he was a Lecturer at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast. Martin was called to the Bar of Ireland in 1998, and served as a part-time Judge of the Employment Tribunals from 1998-2009. He is a part-time Chairman of the Appeals Tribunals, and an Adjudicator of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Panel. Martin is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In addition to sitting on a number of boards and committees, Martin is the current Chairman of the Board of Governors of St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.

Ms Christine Glenn qualified as a barrister in 1980. She was the Justices' Chief Executive in the Inner London Magistrates' Courts Service until 2001 and Chief Executive of the Parole Board for England and Wales from 2001 until March 2009. She sat as a judge in the First Tier Tribunal, dealing with asylum and immigration cases. She served as a member of the Thames Valley Courts Board from its inception until 2010. She also worked as a consultant on parole and criminal justice, including advising governments and training parole boards in Cyprus, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands. She has worked as a Visiting Expert at the United Nations And Far East Institute in Japan and has also presented on parole and its impact on reducing prison overcrowding at the United Nations Congress on Crime in Brazil 2010. She is a member of the Association of Paroling Authorities International Training and Development Committee, representing the international division.

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Commissioners from a Psychiatry and Psychology Background

Dr Adrian Grounds was a University Senior Lecturer in forensic psychiatry at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, and an honorary consultant forensic psychiatrist in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, until retiring in 2010. He is now an honorary research fellow at the Institute of Criminology, and a medical member of the First Tier Tribunal (Mental Health) in England. He has also been a Sentence Review Commissioner since 1998.

Professor Peter Hepper is a Professor of Psychology at the Queen’s University of Belfast. He has previously served as: Head of School, Director of Research, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast; Chair of the Irish Football Association Appeals Committee; Non-Executive Director Ulster Hospitals Trust.  He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and has been Visiting Professor at Kyushu University, Japan, University New South Wales, Australia, Vanderbilt University, USA. Professor Hepper is a qualified hostage negotiator and forensic interviewer of children. He is trained in linguistic threat analysis, behavioural indictors of violence and violent attack, and analysis and investigation of sex crimes.

Dr Damien McCullagh  is a retired Chartered Clinical & Forensic Psychologist with over 37 years’ experience in health care on both sides of the border.  He is a registered practitioner with the Health & Care Professions Council and now provides private consultancy on a range of psychological issues throughout Ireland.  He previously worked for the Northern Ireland Prison Service (1997-2000) and with various Health & Social Care Trusts.  He is an honorary lecturer on Forensic Risk Assessment and has worked as a Behavioural Investigative Advisor (Profiler) for Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and as a Special Advisor to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the past.  Dr McCullagh is also the Founding Chair of Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh and was Chairman of The Board of Governors from 1995-2005.

Dr Micaela Greenwood is an independent business psychologist and management consultant. Her previous positions include Principal Occupational Psychologist at the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Associate Director of the MSc in Occupational Psychology at Queen's University of Belfast. Micaela was appointed as a Sentence Review Commissioner in 2015.

Mrs Deborah McQueirns is a Registered and Chartered Forensic Psychologist, Chartered Scientist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS).  Her previous positions include Principal (Lead) Forensic Psychologist in female and high security prisons, Consultant Psychologist in private healthcare specialising in forensic learning disability and acquired brain injury and Specialist Forensic Psychologist in forensic mental health.  She is currently working as a consultant psychologist in the High Secure Estate in England, as an independent trainer and a practitioner psychologist.  Her particular areas of expertise are in personality, disorder and forensic learning disability and mental health. Mrs McQueirns is also currently undertaking a PhD in narrative identity and agency in older male prisoners at the University of Portsmouth.  She is also active in various roles within the BPS Division of Forensic Psychology.

Mr Emmet Murray is a Health and Care Professions Council registered and British Psychology Society Chartered Forensic Clinical Psychologist currently working in the area of Adult Mental Health and Child Protection. He was previously a Principal Psychologist with the Northern Ireland Prison Service and is currently an Expert Advisor with the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Dr Shelagh-Mary Rea is a Consultant Psychiatrist with specialist status in General Adult Psychiatry and Old Age Psychiatry.  She practiced as a Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry for 24 years in the Northern Sector of the Western Health and Social Care Trust until her retirement in 2010. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and worked as a medical member of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority from April 2009 until December 2018.

Ms Claire Hunt is a Registered Psychologist, Chartered Forensic Psychologist and an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. She has worked as a Forensic Psychologist for 22 years. She is a psychologist member of the Parole Board for England and Wales and she also works part-time in mental health services, as a Consultant Psychologist. Ms Hunt has been working as an expert witness in criminal and family proceedings for 13 years and regularly attends court to provide expert testimony. Previously she worked in HM Prison Service for 11 years, working with high risk offenders, both male and female.

Mrs Siobhan Keating is a Registered Psychologist (HCPC) and Chartered Forensic and Clinical Psychologist (BPS). She currently works as a Consultant Psychologist in Belfast Health & Social Care Trust in the forensic learning disability service. Previously she was a Principal Psychologist with the Northern Ireland Prison Service and a Senior Occupational Psychologist with the Dept. of Employment (NW England). She is a Chartered Scientist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.

Dr Andrea Higgins is a BPS Chartered Clinical Psychologist, and HCPC registered Practitioner Psychologist. She is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with the Ministry of Justice and Clinical Director of Aware, Ireland. She has worked in a variety of clinical and forensic settings, providing specialist services including the assessment of risk of reoffending, which is an area of special interest for her. She has completed doctoral training in forensic clinical psychology and associated specialities and is experienced in the identification and management of risk of reoffending in both community and prison populations. Dr. Higgins has held the roles of chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology within the Psychological Society of Ireland and Vice-Chair of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland. She has a special interest in offending behaviour in the context of neurological conditions and mental health issues. She is an Associate Professor in University College Dublin, Clinical Tutor in Trinity College Dublin and an active member of the European Huntington's Disease Network working groups.

Dr Linda Blud is a chartered and registered forensic psychologist. She is a member of the Parole Board in England and Wales. She was a member of the MOJ Correctional Services Accreditation & Advisory Panel (England and Wales) between 2008 and 2016 and the Scottish Government Accreditation Panel for Offending Behaviour Programmes (2006-2010). Previously she was Principal Psychologist at HMP’s Offending Behaviour Programmes Unit (1995-2001) and has worked with offenders in HM Prison Service and in private practice for over 25 years. Between 2001 and 2016 she provided consultancy to a number of criminal justice agencies across Europe and in North America, including Northern Ireland, where she provided support to the prison psychology service between 2011 and 2015.

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Commissioners from Relevant Backgrounds

Mr Nigel Stone was Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and is now a Visiting Fellow there. Until 1997 he also served in the Probation Service for 25 years, holding a joint appointment as Probation Officer and Head of Home Office sponsored training programmes for probation students at UEA. He was a criminologist member of the Parole Board for England and Wales 1997- 2007 and was reappointed to the Board in 2010.

Mr Stephen Murphy CBE is a former Director General of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, prior to which he was Chief Probation Officer first in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and then in Northumbria.  He is a member of the Parole Board for England and Wales on which he also served from 1995 to 2005.

Mrs Elaine Peel is currently a Company Director.  She was formerly an Assistant Chief Probation Officer with 24 years’ experience of working with offenders.  During her time with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland she was instrumental in setting up a wide range of multi-agency services for prisoners and their families and the implementation of the first programmes to deal with domestic violence in Northern Ireland.  She was a Director of the National Community Justice Training Organisation.

Mrs Alexandra Delimata is a self-employed consultant who works primarily with community groups, enterprises and small businesses in North West Ireland. Until 2004, she was Corporate Secretary of The Travel Partnership Corporation, an international consortium of travel associations.  Prior to relocating to Ireland in 2001, she was Assistant Director, Corporate Development, for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Geneva.

Mrs Ruth Laird CBE is a human resource professional with particular experience in organisational development, equality and diversity in the public, private and voluntary sectors.  She was formerly Director of the National Trust NI, Head of Personnel for BBC (NI) and a Fair Employment Commissioner.  Ruth has held appointments as a NI Judicial Appointments Commissioner; Civil Service Commissioner; a non-executive Director of both the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority; a Board member of Business in the Community and National Trustee of Barnardo’s.  She is currently an Independent Assessor for Public Appointments, a member of the Civil Legal Services Appeal Panels and a member of the Council of Ulster University.  On 29 October 2015 she was appointed as a member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Ruth was made a CBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for public and voluntary services in Northern Ireland.

Professor Duncan Morrow is an academic in the Ulster University where he is Director of Community Engagement.  Until 2012 he was Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council (CRC) and has taken an active role in peace building and the legacy of violence in the past. Professor Morrow was also a Sentence Review Commissioner for Northern Ireland until 2017. He is chair of the Scottish Government Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion.

Dr Patrick McGrath retired in 2002 from the NHS after 30 years’ service as a General Practitioner and now continues in regular clinical practice as a Forensic Physician.  He formerly taught Medical Ethics and Law at the University of Ulster as a visiting Professor until retirement from that position in 2015.  In 2006 Dr McGrath was elected a Foundation Fellow of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians.

Miss Linda McHugh is a Management Consultant and former Vice-Chair of Community Housing Association. She is a Board Member of a number of voluntary sector organisations and a member of the Audit Committee of the Law Society. She was an Independent Member of the Parole Board for England and Wales from 2002 until 2009 and was a non-executive member of its Management Board and Chairman of its Audit and Risk Management Committee.

Mrs Elsbeth Rea OBE is a retired social worker. She has worked as  a Senior Probation Officer with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, as a lecturer in Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast and for various social work and social care bodies and agencies on a sessional basis.  She is currently a Lay Magistrate and a Lay Member of the Bar Disciplinary Committee.  She has held public appointments with the Northern Ireland Committee of Ofqual, the Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust, the Police Authority for Northern Ireland and the Eastern Health and Social Services Council.

Mrs Debbie Hill is a barrister (non-practising).  She began career in Youth Justice before working in the Probation Service as a District Manager responsible for courts and as the District Sex Offender Specialist. She re-trained as a barrister.  She is currently an independent member of the Parole Board for England and Wales, a lay member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales.  Mrs Hill is currently sitting as a Chair for the General Chiropractic Council fitness to practice Panels and is also a lay member/Chair for the MPTS fitness to practice hearings.

Ms Mary Barnish is a former senior probation officer who worked for London Probation for 35 years.  Her management roles have included the family courts service, programmes for women offenders, victims unit, and a public protection unit responsible for the assessment and supervision of high risk offenders. From 2002 -2005 she was seconded to HM Inspectorate of Probation for England & Wales, auditing accredited programmes and conducting effective supervision inspections, including a thematic inspection on domestic violence. More recently she was a member of London Probation’s Inspection and Standards unit where her responsibilities included HR and complaints investigations and conducting serious case reviews.

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