The recent release on parole of a sex offender without seeking representations from the victim’s family and the subsequent smokescreen statement issued by the Government, has raised controversy that is not worthy of Minister Costa. It is typical of a Government that never addresses real or serious issues raised but all too often launches into inelegant, infantile and personal attacks.
The GSD will refrain from commenting on the specific case, as it is wrong to politicise specifics.
Prior to answering questions from the media, Danny Feetham sought to discuss matters with Minister Costa but his approaches were unsuccessfully.
Consequently, he went on to make two general observations, unrelated to the specifics of the case under scrutiny.
First, that the law should now be reformed to increase the qualifying period for applications for parole, which, due to the conditions at the old prison at Moorish Castle, had remained unchanged, and whilst circumstances in the new prison were being monitored. Criticism may be merited for the GSD not changing the law in 2011 but no change has been introduced after eight years of GSLP Government: change is now due and further delay is unjustified.
Second, the Prison Act does provide for representations to be received as part of the parole process, both as to the impact of parole on a victim’s family and as to licence conditions: these are separate and distinct requirements that do not restrict each other.
The words “where relevant and available” in the statute do not reduce the public law obligation of the Parole Board, they simply avoid parole being stopped where victim’s views are neither relevant or accessible.
Certainly, in cases involving sexual offences, this carve out is inapplicable save in extreme circumstances.
The GSD maintains its position that the qualifying period for parole should be increased from one third to one half and that the parole process continues to take representations of victims into account. To the extent that the Minister has a different interpretation, then he should have changed the law earlier. He has had eight years to do so.