McGuinness: “I trust that David Ford will take the right decision…”

Having interfered in an ongoing police investigation last week, this week the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA, doubles up by giving the NI Justice Minster, David Ford, some legal advice.  From the BBC report

“There can be no doubt that Brendan Lillis is seriously ill and does not represent a threat to anyone,” Mr McGuinness said.

“The decision of the British Secretary of State Owen Paterson to revoke the licence of Brendan Lillis is reminiscent of internment without trial.

“It is crystal clear that Mr Ford has the power to release Brendan Lillis on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

“The advice I have received states that David Ford has the legal power to act and is not accountable to the British Government’s Life Sentence Review Commission.

“I trust that David Ford will take the right decision on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.”

That would be the former Provisional IRA member Brendan Lillis, arrested in October 2009 for his part in an attempted “tiger kidnapping”, and whom, it had been reported, the Life Sentence Review Commission have already decided should not be released on compassionate grounds.

There seems to be some doubt about that now

On Tuesday, parole commissioners ruled that he should not be released on compassionate grounds.

But after Wednesday’s meeting [with Sinn Féin representatives], the Department of Justice said the issue was “currently under active consideration by parole commissioners”.

And, even if a NI Justice Minister has the power to over-rule the independent Life Sentence Review Commission, would he have access to the information required, e.g. intelligence reports, to make a full threat assessment in this case?

Update  A BBC report today (Wed 3 Aug) notes that the NI Justice Minister has met the partner of Brendan Lillis.  And some others.

Mr Ford confirmed he has received advice on the issue of compassionate release for Mr Lillis.

The minister told Ms Lynch that he was seeking additional independent medical advice and would invite Mr Lillis’s legal team to make further representations on the case for compassionate release.

Mr Ford said: “I used today’s meeting with Ms Lynch to explain the legal position in relation to the release of a prisoner on compassionate grounds and my role and responsibilities as justice minister.

“The department refers the cases of recalled life sentence prisoners to the independent parole commissioners who will direct the prisoner’s release on licence if satisfied that the prisoner does not pose a risk of serious harm to the public.

“As with any life sentence prisoner who has been recalled to prison, Mr Lillis’s case has been referred to the commissioners.”

The minister also told Ms Lynch that he has been updated on Mr Lillis’s medical condition and his current state of health.

“I am satisfied that the Northern Ireland Prison Service and its health care partners in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust are managing Mr Lillis’s full health care needs,” he said.

Ms Lynch was accompanied by MLAs Jennifer McCann of Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood.

Mr Ford also met representatives of Cardinal Sean Brady on Wednesday.