Department of Justice statement on the release of Malcolm MacArthur

Tuesday 18 September 2012 21.35
Department of Justice statement on the release of Malcolm MacArthur

Mr MacArthur was approved for reviewable temporary release under the supervision of the Probation Service from Monday 17 September, 2012.

While it is not the policy of the Department of Justice and Equality to comment on individual cases this can be merited as in this case where the particular circumstances and the public interest in a case which shocked the nation so many years ago.

In 2011, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD, approved a structured programme of temporary release for Mr Malcolm MacArthur who was convicted of murder in 1982.

Mr MacArthur has now served over 30 years in prison and is 66 years of age. Since his imprisonment, his case was reviewed a number of times by the Parole Board, and prior to that by the then Sentence Review Group. The Parole Board advises Ministers' on managing long term prison sentences and recommendations for temporary release were made on a number of occasions. However, apart from some periods of short term release at Christmas, it was only in 2011 that a decision was taken to put a structured programme in place.

As with any prisoner on temporary release, there were a number of conditions attached to the programme approved by the Minister. The Probation Service closely supervise and monitor those conditions and, if there was any breach, he could be returned to prison.

The Minister was at all times conscious of the dreadful events of 1982 and of their impact on family members. The victims’ families have been contacted and informed of developments.


Background information:

When life sentence prisoners are being released back into the community there are a number of conditions which are set as part of the release programme, these can include inter alia; to be of good behaviour, keep the peace, to reside at a specific address, sign on at a Garda station, to refrain from entering set premises, agree not to change address without notifying the relevant services. One of the most important conditions set is that the person shall be under the supervision of the Probation Service, including attending all appointments directed by supervising officer and co-operating with all lawful directions of supervising officer.

In relation to temporary release the legislative basis for making decisions on temporary release are fully set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.

Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. Recommendations are also made to the Minister in relation to long term sentence prisoners by the Parole Board. It is very important to note that it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect. Each application is considered on its individual merits and evaluated using the following criteria as outlined in the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.:

• the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by the person relates;
• the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed;
• the period of the sentence served by the person;
• the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released;
• the person's previous criminal record;
• the risk of the person failing to return to prison at the expiration of the period of temporary release;
• the conduct of the person while in custody or while previously on temporary release;
• any report or recommendation made by the Governor, the Garda Síochána, a Probation Officer, or any other person whom the Minister considers may be of assistance in coming to a decision as to whether to grant temporary release;
• the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release;
• the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release;
• the likelihood that a period of temporary release might accelerate the person's reintegration into society or improve his prospects of obtaining employment.