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Justice Department insists no decision made on Catherine Nevin release

The Department of Justice has taken the unusual step of commenting on the case of convicted murderer Catherine Nevin insisting that there has been no decision on her proposed temporary release.

Catherine Nevin during her trial in 2000.
Catherine Nevin during her trial in 2000.
Image: Aidan Crawley/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Justice has insisted that no decision has been made on whether to grant the convicted murderer Catherine Nevin temporary release to attend a college course.

In a statement released this evening, the Department said that a recommendations had been made regarding the 61-year-old’s attendance on an educational course but no decision has been made by the Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Nevin, nicknamed the ‘Black Widow’, was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of her husband Tom Nevin in 1996 at the Jack White’s Inn pub in Co Wicklow which the couple owned together.

The case is regarded as one of the most infamous in Irish legal history with Nevin also convicted of soliciting three men to kill her husband who she suggested was in the IRA in an attempt to besmirch his name.

In a statement, the Department said that while it was not policy to comment on “individual cases” it considered it necessary to issue a statement in light of the way the case has been reported “to clarify the position in this case and regarding life sentenced prisoners in general”.

The statement said: “Firstly as regards the case of Catherine Nevin, the Minister has not made any decision on granting temporary release. Recommendations have been made concerning attendance on an educational course but no decision has been made at this point in time.

A life sentenced prisoner is eligible for review by the Parole Board after serving 7 years in custody. Each case is considered on its individual merits and the Board take into account the full range of circumstances including the nature and gravity of the offence, the potential threat to safety, the risk of reoffending, the conduct of the prisoner and the prisoner’s engagement with the range of services on offer in the prison before making a recommendation to the Minister who then has the final decision.

Of those who have been granted temporary release in the form of parole since 2005, the average period of imprisonment before parole has been 17 years.

This compares to an average of just over 7.5 years for releases dating from 1975 to 1984, just under 12 years for the period dating from 1985 to 1994, and just under 14 years for the period dating from 1995 to 2004.

It must be emphasised that each case is decided on its individual merits. There is no set tariff or minimum term of imprisonment as there is in the UK.

The statement came on foot of the Parole Board’s recommendation that Nevin be considered for day release to attend the course at the Dóchas Centre, where she is serving her sentence, before it considers a case for her release in June of next year.

In the statement this evening, the Department said that Shatter had previously indicated his intention to place the Parole Board on a “statutory footing”.

“This will help to strengthen the Parole Board and improve its functions. In that context, he is considering what role the Board will play and what powers it should have before bringing proposals to Government,” the statement added.

Poll: Should prisoners be released from jails to attend college?

Read: Catherine Nevin loses ‘miscarriage of justice’ appeal

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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