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New parole guidelines set to be introduced

The Island's parole system faces sweeping changes, Attorney General Kim Wilson has announced.

New legislation will introduce tiered sentencing, as well as tiered criteria for parole eligibility.

The move was welcomed by newly-appointed chairman of the Parole Board, Ashfield DeVent, who said: “I fully support the Attorney General's initiatives.

“The Parole Board is quite busy; I think people don't realise how busy it is. This has taken some of the more serious considerations out of our hands. I think the public was crying out for this.”

The Parole Board will continue to deal with offenders who have been sentenced to up to four years' imprisonment, but for those incarcerated for longer periods, a Re-Entry Court alone will determine if an offender merits parole.

Appearing alongside Mr DeVent, Premier Paula Cox and Commissioner of Corrections Edward Lamb, Senator Wilson also promised a tighter, more case-specific scrutiny of cases when offenders come up for parole.

The changes, she said, will “tighten reins, fill gaps and further protect the community”.

All paroled offenders will attend a monthly Review Court that will supervise their reintegration. Tiered sentencing, meanwhile, stands to rewrite the rules of the minimum time served for parole eligibility.

As an example, Sen Wilson said, an individual imprisoned for two years, with no aggravating features such as violence attending the original offence, and who has completed all mandatory programmes, will become eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence.

However, Sen Wilson said, for sentences of five or more years, with aggravating features such as violence, theft, robbery, parole will not be offered until inmates have served two-thirds of their sentence.

Sen Wilson said the new measures followed on promises in last year's Throne Speech, which pledged that new legislation would be tabled ensuring “a more structured collaboration between Court Services and the Bermuda Police Service, mindful of the independence of the Parole Board”.

She said tripartite meetings have been held since September between the Commissioner of Corrections, the Director of Court Services and the Chairman of the Parole Board.

The collaboration will ensure that the Board considers “evidence of gang affiliations and the offender's level of involvement in the gang prior to imprisonment”, as well as the public safety risk presented by prolific offenders.

Sen Wilson said the moves would not require additional staff, and had been welcomed by both Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner and Chief Justice Richard Ground.

Review Court will be supervised each month by a magistrate or judge.

“They recognise that if their involvement involves regular monitoring, then they are prepared to do what they can,” Sen Wilson said.

Newly appointed Parole Board Chairman Ashfield DeVent , Premier Paula Cox and Kim Wilson Attorney General spoke during a press conference to discuss law reform at the Cabinet House. ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published February 03, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 03, 2012 at 5:33 am)

New parole guidelines set to be introduced

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