Appointments to Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland

Date published: 01 August 2023

Five new appointments have been made to the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland (PCNI).

Dr Jeremy Kenney-Herbert, Dr Michael Utterson and Dr Christine Kennedy are appointed as psychiatry commissioners. Matthew Corkey and John O’Neill are appointed as legal commissioners. 

PCNI is an independent body, critical to the process of deciding whether offenders who are eligible for parole are safe to be released back into the community.  Public protection is always paramount and robust risk assessment is the key to making a decision on potential release.

These appointments brings the total complement of serving commissioners to 42.

Richard Pengelly CB, Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice said: “I would like to welcome the new commissioners and wish them all well in their new role.” 

Notes to editors: 

1. The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 renamed the Life Sentence Review Commissioners (LSRC) as Parole Commissioners and introduced new public protection sentences. 

 2. Commissioners are appointed under Schedule 4 of the 2008 Order.  They serve in a fee-paid capacity and in accordance with the legislative requirements individual Commissioners have professional qualifications or experience in the legal, medical, criminological and rehabilitative fields. The commissioners are remunerated on a case by case basis. The Chief Commissioner is appointed from within the existing Commissioners.

3. The appointment process reflected the principles and practices of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Northern Ireland Code of Practice.  Appointments were made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.

4. The new Commissioners do not hold any other public appointments in Northern Ireland.

5.  Pen pictures for the Commissioners.

Dr. Jeremy Kenney-Herbert

Dr Jeremy Kenney-Herbert trained as a psychiatrist in Sydney, Australia before undertaking a placement at Reaside Clinic forensic mental health, in Birmingham in 1995.  He specialised in forensic psychiatry in the United Kingdom and in 1997 became a consultant forensic psychiatrist.  He has worked extensively in secure mental health hospitals in Birmingham; provided care in a community forensic mental health team; been a visiting psychiatrist to Elliott House Approved Premises (Probation) in Birmingham for over 10 years; worked for over 25 years in a maximum security prison as a visiting forensic psychiatrist and for the last 5 years in a busy remand prison.  He has extensive medico-legal experience in criminal courts in the United Kingdom and including many homicide trials.  He has been a past member of the advisory board to the Quality Network for Forensic Mental Health Services for the Royal College of Psychiatrists; he has been a selected member of the NHS England Secure Care Clinical Reference Group for the last 10 years and a member of the Forensic Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in various roles over the last 10 years and is currently the Vice Chair.  He has been in senior clinical leadership roles as a Clinical Director for the last 17 years in the West Midlands. He has a particular interest in the role of mental disorder in offending behaviours, the provision of community mental health services, and prison mental health services.  He is an enthusiastic practising clinician for those involved in the criminal justice system. 

Political Activity: None

Dr. Michael Utterson.

Dr Utterson is a consultant psychiatrist currently working within a Category A status prison in England. He has experience across community and inpatient psychiatric settings, as well as with experience of writing reports for the courts and the parole board. Dr Utterson is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and holds an honorary teaching position with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Political Activity: None

Dr. Christine Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy has worked as a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist from 2001. She is dually registered on the Specialist Register of the GMC in General Adult and Forensic Psychiatry. She was previously employed between the Shannon Clinic Medium Secure Unit and the Northern Health & Social Care Trust Forensic Mental Health Team between 2005 and 2021 and is a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Currently she works independently providing medicolegal reports on a range of forensic mental health issues.

Political Activity: None

Mr. Matthew Corkey.

Mr. Matthew Corkey was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 2008. He has represented clients in all tiers of the court system including the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. He was appointed to the Government Legal Services Civil Panel of Counsel in 2012 and is currently on their ‘A’ Panel. He is currently appointed to the Directorate of Legal Services Clinical Negligence; General Litigation, Property, Commercial, Procurement, Administrative Law and Employment Panels. He was called to the Bar of Ireland in 2019. He was also appointed to the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland ‘A’ Panel of Counsel in 2020. He has been involved in the provision of continuing professional development programs to solicitors in this jurisdiction via the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Political Activity: None

Mr. John O’Neill.

Mr. John O’Neill qualified as a solicitor in 2004.  He joined the Public Prosecution Service in 2006 working in a court-based role as a Public Prosecutor and in 2009 was awarded a Certificate in Advanced Advocacy by the Law Society.  In 2011 he was appointed a Senior Public Prosecutor (Higher Court Advocate), appearing for the prosecution in Crown Court trials for a number of years before adopting a role as a prosecution decision-maker in cases of particular complexity and profile.

John authored a textbook on criminal law in Northern Ireland which was published in 2013 and he regularly tutors at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in the field of Solicitor Advocacy.  In 2019 he was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2017 John was appointed to fee-paid judicial office as a Legal Member of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal and in 2021 was appointed Deputy President of that Tribunal.

He currently serves on the Magistrates’ Court Rules Committee, the Crown Court Rules Committee and the Council of Law Reporting.

Political Activity: None

6. For media enquiries contact the Department of Justice Press Office at

7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours 028 9037 8110.

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