New Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland announced

Date published: 13 December 2019

The Department of Justice has appointed Paul Mageean as the new Chief Commissioner of the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland.

Six new Criminal Justice Commissioners have also been appointed. They are Louisa Fee, Mike Fowkes, Jarlath Kearney, Ciaran McQuillan, Tracey Overing and Vilma Patterson. 

Thirty-four serving Commissioners are reappointed for a further term of office.

Peter May, Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice said: “These new appointments will add to the collective wealth of knowledge and experience of the Commissioners.  I also welcome back those Commissioners who are being reappointed for a further term and thank them for their continued commitment to a demanding area of work.”

Peter May added: “I would also like to record my thanks to the former Chief Commissioner, Christine Glenn for her personal commitment and contribution to the work of the Parole Commissioners during her time in office.”

As an independent body, the Commissioners role, is to make decisions on the release or otherwise of those serving extended or indeterminate sentences and in relation to the revocation of licences and recall to prison in cases where an offender is subject to post custody supervision.

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 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.Pen pictures of all existing Commissioners are available on the Parole Commissioners website:

Louisa Fee

Mrs Louisa Fee qualified as a Solicitor in September 2004.  She worked in General Private Practice until October 2017 specialising in Family and Criminal law.  She was appointed to the Guardian Ad Litem panel in 2012.  In November 2017 she was appointed legal advisor for the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and thereafter became the Director of Legal Services in October 2018.  She was appointed to the Civil Legal Services Appeals Panel in April 2019.  She was sworn in as a Legal Member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Northern Ireland in August 2019.  She has been appointed to the Board of Governors at Park Education Centre, Aquinas Grammar School and St Brides Primary School Belfast.

Political Activity:  None

Mike Fowkes

Mr Mike Fowkes is a former police officer who served in Devon and Cornwall Police for thirty years. As a police senior investigating officer (SIO) he led teams on numerous murder and major crime investigations. Following his retirement he briefly worked as an independent civilian SIO with the Historical Enquiries Team of The Police Service of Northern Ireland, reviewing unsolved murders committed during the Troubles. He also acted on behalf of a community safety partnership as an independent chair and overview report writer for a domestic homicide review and carried out investigatory work for a criminal law practice representing clients facing allegations including murder. His voluntary roles included working with young offenders as part of youth offender panels and also, as a lay panellist, on a committee helping in the recruitment of new Magistrates. He is currently working as a self-employed lay panel member on fitness to practise hearings for three health and social care regulators. He is also a chair of Mental Health Act panel hearings, reviewing cases of patients detained for treatment in secure psychiatric hospital wards and making decisions on whether to uphold the patient’s detention, or to discharge them.

Political Activity: None

Jarlath Kearney

Jarlath Kearney is currently an Equality Commissioner for Northern Ireland, appointed by the Secretary of State in 2016. He is an experienced senior strategy advisor. In 2018, he was appointed as a National Expert for the European Commission’s TAIEX Programme on a project of institutional transformation, equality and rights, and democratic development in the Balkans region. Jarlath was previously a Board member of both the Arts Council for Northern Ireland and the Community Relations Council. He holds Masters degrees in Human Rights Law and Journalism Studies, and writes a regular column for The Irish News.

Political Activity: Former Sinn Fein party member

Ciaran McQuillan

Ciaran McQuillan qualified as a Solicitor in 1994. He worked in private practice for 12 years specialising in Personal Injury litigation and Criminal Law. In 2006 he joined the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland. He has served as an Assistant Director for the last 9 years and is presently head of the Serious Crime Unit. He is a member of the Law Society’s Advocacy Working Party and in 2013 was appointed to the Magistrates Court Rules Committee.

Political Activity: None

Tracey Overing

Tracy Overing was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 2004.  She specialises in the area of children and family law and continues to practise in other areas of law including criminal, matrimonial and judicial review.  Ms Overing is a well-respected member of the profession with extensive experience in complex cases of fact and law including the sexual abuse of children, domestic abuse, wardship, adoption, public and private law proceedings with domestic and international elements, Hague Convention and Non-Hague Convention proceedings.   She has completed additional training to become an Advanced Advocate.  Ms Overing appears in all court tiers and has been involved in a number of cases which have set legal precedent.  In October 2014 Ms Overing was appointed as Chair of the Disability Appeals Tribunals conducting appeal hearings in the application of social security law.   She continues in this post to date.

Political Activity: None

Vilma Patterson

Vilma Patterson spent over 30 years in the construction industry as a Director and Shareholder of John G Duff (Annandale) Ltd. Interested in skills development for the industry she is a past member of the Training Committee for the Construction Industry Training Board for Northern Ireland. In 2002 she was the founding Chair of the Women in Business Network, and is a former Board Member of the Women on the Move Network which works to support and encourage female entrepreneurship. Ms Patterson is past Chairman of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and she has been a non-executive member of the Audit Committee of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and also a Civil Service Commissioner for Northern Ireland. Previously Vilma was a Member and Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Maghaberry 1996 to 2008 and Chairman of the Association of Members of Independent Monitoring Boards for Northern Ireland. She was a member of the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland for period 2006-2010. From 2011-2013 she was a member of the Prison Service Pay Review Body.  Currently she is a Member of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland and is a Non-Executive Member of the Board of the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Political Activity: None

5.All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444.  Out of hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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