Sugden announces appointment of new Parole Commissioners

Date published: 24 January 2017

Justice Minister Claire Sugden has today announced the appointment of five new Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland.

The five appointments are Dr Linda Blud, Mr Mark Finegan, Mrs Dawn Harris, Dr Andrea Higgins and Mr Martin O’Brien.

Minister Sugden said: “I welcome the appointment of the five new Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland. The new appointees will add to the collective wealth of knowledge and experience of the Commissioners.

"The Parole Commissioners provide a critical and important contribution to the protection of the public. I greatly appreciate the commitment, dedication and skill that they bring to an increasingly complex and demanding area of work.”

The Commissioners’ role as an independent body of Commissioners, 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. Dr Linda Blud is a Chartered Psychologist and a registered Forensic Psychologist and Chartered Scientist. She was a member of the Parole Board in England and Wales from 2004 – 2012.  She was a Principal Psychologist at HMP’s Offending Behaviours Unit from 1995 – 2001. Since that time she has worked with a number of prison psychology services in Europe and America, including Northern Ireland, where she provided support with programme delivery and risk assessment between 2011 and 2015.

Public/Other Appointments

Psychology member of MOJ Parole Board for England and Wales – 2004-2012; and reappointed with effect from July 2017 – remunerated

Panel member of MOJ Correctional Services Accreditation and Advisory Panel, England and Wales – 2008-2016 – remunerated

Panel member of Scottish Government Accreditation Panel for Offender Programmes – 2006-2010 – remunerated

2. Mr Mark Finegan has been a qualified Solicitor since September 1993 and is a member of the Law Society of Northern Ireland. For the last five years he has been a member of the Crown Court Rules Committee, and is also a member of the Criminal Justice Issues Group.

Public/Other Appointments

No previous Public Appointments

3. Mrs Dawn Harris is a Chartered Forensic Psychologist, a Registered and practicing Forensic and Clinical Psychologist and a qualified Psychotherapist. She is a Risk Assessor with the Risk Management Authority in Scotland and is trained to supervise and treatment manage intervention programmes for sexual and violent offenders.  She has designed anger management and sexual offender treatment programmes for the Criminal Justice Department and Scottish Prison Service in Scotland. She also has significant experience in treating people who have been exposed to psychological trauma in their past.

Public/Other Appointments

Psychologist for Scottish Prison Service from January 2001- December 2008 – remunerated

Consultant Psychologist for Scottish Government from December 2009 – June 2014 – remunerated

4. Dr Andrea Higgins is a BPS Chartered Clinical Psychologist and registered Practitioner Psychologist.  She has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including the Granada Institute, St John of God Hospitaller Services and Arbour Hill prison, focusing on the assessment of risk of reoffending.  She has completed specialist training placements in forensic clinical psychology and has specialist experience of the identification and management of risk of reoffending, in both community and prison populations. 

Public/Other Appointments

Board member/Director of Neurological Association of Ireland – current – voluntary

Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, Psychological Society of Ireland – current – voluntary

Committee member of the Division of Neuropsychology, Psychological Society of Ireland – current – voluntary

Membership Secretary & Committee Member of the Division of Clinical Psychology, Psychological Society of Ireland – November 2015- November 2016 – voluntary

5. Mr Martin O’Brien was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland on 26 September 1989, and has been in practice as a Barrister-at-Law in Northern Ireland since 27 March 1990, specialising in employment and discrimination law. He is a member of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has also been a Qualified Mediator since July 2010. He is a lecturer at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University, and is currently a part-time Chairman of Social Security Appeal Tribunals & The Disability Appeal Tribunal.

Public/Other Appointments

Governor, St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon – current – voluntary

Chairman, Board of Governors, St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon – current – voluntary

Chairman, Safeguarding Advisory Panel, Archdiocese of Armagh – current – voluntary

Governor, St. Mary’s University College (QUB) Belfast – current - voluntary

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

7. Commissioners are appointed by the Minister of Justice 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 via pager number 07623974383 and your call will be returned.

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