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Parole reform put under the spotlight

GSD MP Daniel Feetham, a former justice minister, has said he regrets not raising the qualifying period on parole cases from one third of a sentence to one half, in line with UK law, when he was in government.

But in an interview with the Chronicle, Mr Feetham said too that after eight years in government, the GSLP/Liberals had enjoyed ample time to revisit the legislation and make the change.

Mr Feetham was speaking against the backdrop of a row between himself and the current Minister for Justice, Neil Costa, over the reform of the parole system.

This also comes as a host of recent cases have served to put a spotlight on the issue once again, as well as more pragmatic focus on how the parole board engages with victims and their families.

The issue was first highlighted last week by Independent MP Marlene Hassan-Nahon, who called for Gibraltar to put in place a system similar to the one in the UK, which allows for victims of crime to provide impact statements when prisoners become eligible for parole.

In Gibraltar, prisoners can apply for parole after serving a third of their sentence.

The decision to grant or deny parole lies with the Parole Board.

The reason for the one third rule is historical and related to the conditions of prisoners at the old Moorish Castle prison.

It was not changed when the GSD Government introduced the Prison Act in 2011.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Mr Feetham explained: “We spoke internally about this because the Prison Act was a new way of dealing with prison issues and indeed a new way of dealing with parole issues - it was a completely different system.”

“Because we just moved the prison service into a new prison and because we had reformed the entire parole system, to then change as well the one third, we thought it wasn’t the right thing to do at the time and that we should keep it under review.”

“Looking back, I actually regret it, because I think we should have raised it.”

“Despite those reasons, I accept full responsibility for not upping it at the time and indeed any criticisms that follow from it,” Mr Feetham said.

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