David Ford: “as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

Having met with various interested parties, and despite the advice from Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has rejected calls to free former Provisional IRA member Brendan Lillis on compassionate grounds.  From the BBC report

Mr Ford said he had taken “an active interest” in the case and had sought additional independent medical advice.

However, he said while it was within his power to free Mr Lillis, he had been advised that there were not sufficient grounds for compassionate release.

“There have only been two cases in the last decade where those exceptional circumstances have been satisfied,” he added.

“One prisoner was terminally ill and died shortly after release. The other had medical needs which could not be met in the prison hospital and was transferred to an outside hospital.

“Neither of those circumstances have been put to me by the people who advice me. And therefore as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

A UTV report adds

Mr Ford has said he is looking into the matter but has not been advised it is necessary at this point to release Mr Lillis.

“I have not been advised by those who are responsible for professionally advising me that there is any particular urgency, but I am keeping the matter under review”, Mr Ford told UTV.

“I have asked for reports, I have asked for a meeting so I am certainly treating it as a significant issue, but I have not been given any persuasive evidence at this stage that there are grounds for urgent compassionate release”, he added.

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