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Introduction and context 

Short biographies of Commissioners

On 30 July 1998, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Dr Marjorie Mowlam appointed Sentence Review Commissioners. The appointments were required under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act which came into force 28 July 1998.

Dr Mowlam said: "The early release of prisoners is one of the most difficult parts of the Good Friday Agreement. The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act provides the framework for releases and includes important safeguards for the protection of the public and to ensure that prisoners who support organisations that have not established or are not maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires will not be released early.

The present Commissioners appointed are:-

Clodach McGrory (chair)

Dr Adrian Grounds

Professor John Jackson

Dr Duncan Morrow

The Secretary to the Commissioners is Moya Cushley


1. The appointments are made under section 1(1) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.

2. In making appointments the Secretary of State was required to:

  • appoint a chairman or chairmen;
  • so far as reasonably practicable ensure that one of the Commissioners is a psychiatrist or psychologist;
  • so far as reasonably practicable ensure that one of the Commissioners is a lawyer, that is a person who holds a legal qualification in the United Kingdom;
  • have regard to the desirability of the Commissioners as a group commanding widespread acceptance throughout the community in Northern Ireland.

3. The Secretary of State has made procedural rules under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act. The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 (Sentence Review Commissioners) Rules 1998 set out the procedures to be followed in making and considering applications to the Commissioners and related matters.

4. The safeguards under the legislation include the conditions that each prisoner must satisfy to be granted a declaration of eligibility for early release, the power for the Secretary of State to refer cases back to the Commissioners, the licence provisions and arrangements for recall, the requirement to specify organisations that have not established and are not maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires, the power to vary the accelerated release provisions and the power to suspend the scheme as a whole.

Pen Pictures/short biographies


Clodach McGrory is a Barrister with a particular interest in Human Rights work. She practised at the Bar of Northern Ireland from 1990 to 1995. She subsequently worked at the Law Centre (Northern Ireland) and was a member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights from 1998 to 1999. She was appointed a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission in January 2001.

Duncan Morrow is a lecturer in politics at the University of Ulster and a member of the Community Relations Council. He is the author of a number of reports into politics and community relations in Northern Ireland. He is a member of the Corrymeela Community with a longtime interest in reconciliation and conflict resolution.

Dr Adrian Grounds is a retired Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. He was previously a University Senior Lecturer in forensic psychiatry at the Institute and an honorary consultant forensic psychiatrist in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. He has also been a Sentence Review Commissioner since 1998.

Professor John Jackson is Dean of the School of Law at University College Dublin and a qualified barrister. He was previously Professor of Law at Queen's University Belfast and has taught at University College Cardiff, the City University, London and the University of Sheffield. He has held visiting professorships at Hastings College of the Law, University of California and the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales and was a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in 2007 2008. From 1998 to 2000 he was an Independent Assessor for the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Review.