Friday 27 May 2022

Ministers ‘should lose right to decide if life-term prisoners go free’

A prison corridor

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Ministers should no longer decide when criminals serving life sentences are released, the government’s highest judicial adviser has recommended.

The sentencing and youth protection council RSJ said the decision should be left to judges because government ministers were too heavily influenced by the political climate.

At the moment life prisoners become eligible for parole after 25 years, when they can take their case to a special panel that assesses their behaviour and development in prison, the risk of reoffending and the impact their release could have on victims and their relatives.

But the final say rests with the minister for legal protection, currently Franc Weerwind.

The RSJ said that ministers had been reluctant in recent years to release life prisoners, even if it was recommended by the panel.

‘The decision to pardon prisoners is sensitive to political influence because the decision rests with the minister, who is accountable to parliament,’ it said. ‘That is positive from the point of view of democratic accountability, but it makes pardons dependent on the political climate.’

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