Andrew Bridgen MP questions Government about monitoring prisoners released in Northern Ireland
Andrew Bridgen asks the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the monitoring of prisoners released on licence and the danger of former prisoners re-engaging in paramilitary activities.
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the security situation in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): The threat level in Northern Ireland remains at severe. Those who remain intent on committing violence are defying the will of the overwhelming majority of people, who want to go about their lives without fear and intimidation. This Government remain fully committed to countering terrorism in all its forms.
Andrew Bridgen: Given the danger that former prisoners will re-engage in paramilitary activities, will my right hon. Friend inform the House what steps are being taken to monitor prisoners released on licence, and under what circumstances those licences may be revoked?
Mr Paterson: If you do not mind, Mr Speaker, I should like to take a few moments to answer this question, which is a matter of huge consequence and debate in Northern Ireland.
The parole commissioners are an independent body appointed by the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland. The commissioners’ role is to make decisions on the release and recall of life-sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland. If information is brought to my attention, I share it with the commissioners and seek a recommendation from them regarding whether to revoke a licence. If they recommend that I do so, I will revoke, because I have a duty to protect the public. The commissioners then arrange a full hearing at which the prisoner can present his or her case and challenge the evidence against them. The commissioners make their decision on whether to release the prisoner because they are no longer a risk to the public, or whether the prisoner should stay in custody. The commissioners’ decision is binding. For those who remain in custody, cases are reviewed every one to two years.