Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland

The Parole Commissioners operate under a number of legislative frameworks: -

  • The Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 20011 which came into effect on 18th July 2001;
  • The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 which came into operation on 15th May 2008; and
  • The Parole Commissioners’ Rules (Northern Ireland) 2009 which came into effect on the 1st April 2009.

Each of these legislative frameworks have been amended by The Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Devolution of Policing and Justice Functions) Order 2010 no. 976.

Schedule 4 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 sets out the legal requirements pertaining to the Parole Commissioners and may be summarised as follows:

Appointment of Commissioners

  • These are made by the Department of Justice;
  • at least one of the Commissioners is a person who holds or has held judicial office in any part of the UK or who is: 
  1. a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland or solicitor of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland of at least 10 years’ standing; or
  2. an advocate or solicitor in Scotland of at least 10 years’ standing; or
  3. a person who has a 10 year general qualification within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (c.41);

at least one is a:

  1. registered psychiatrist;
  2. chartered psychologist;
  3. person to have knowledge and experience of the supervision or aftercare of discharged prisoners;
  4. person to have knowledge and experience of working with victims of crime; and
  5. person to have made a study of the causes of delinquency or the treatment of offenders.

The Department of Justice must appoint a Chief Commissioner and may appoint a deputy Chief Commissioner from the body of Commissioners.


A Commissioner shall hold office in accordance with the terms of appointment and may resign by notice in writing to the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice can, after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, dismiss a Commissioner if satisfied that the criteria set out in Schedule 4 (3) has been met.


The Department of Justice may make rules with respect to the proceedings of the Commissioners. These can be found in The Parole Commissioners’ (Northern Ireland) Rules 2009 which came into effect on 1st April 2009. The Rules include provision for how cases are referred to the Parole Commissioners; the information to be provided to them by the Department; the decisions that can be made; and the timetable for the cases.

At this time, the Rules do not provide for the recall and review of determinate custodial sentenced prisoners. However, as the Parole Commissioners are entitled to regulate their own procedures under Rule 3(1) of the Parole Commissioners’ Rules, an interim policy is in place for dealing with these cases. As far as is practicable, an reference under Articles 28(2)(a), 28(4) and 29(6) will be dealt with as if they were referred under the Rules.

1. As amended by the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008