The Court of Appeals in Sofia says that the parole it granted to Australian murder convict Jock Palfreeman is immediately enforceable.
The statement was posted on the website of the court on October 9, amid continuing controversy over the holding of Palfreeman in Busmantsi, a centre in Sofia for detention of foreigners, pending a ruling by the Supreme Court of Cassation on an application by the Prosecutor-General for a review and suspension of Palfreeman’s parole.
Palfreeman was granted parole by the Court of Appeals in Sofia after serving 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the December 2007 murder of student Andrei Monov. After the court ruling, Palfreeman was transferred from Sofia Central Prison to Busmantsi.
The Supreme Court of Cassation said on October 7 that it would rule on the Prosecutor-General’s application within two months. There has been an outcry among supporters of Palfreeman that his continued detention in Busmantsi is illegal, as is the refusal to implement a decision for him to leave Bulgaria.
Sofia Court of Appeals judges Kalin Kalpakchiev, Vesislava Ivanova and Violeta Magdalincheva are adamant that the court proceedings seeking a review of their decision are not grounds for Palfreeman’s detention in Busmantsi.
In a lengthy statement on the website of the Sofia Court of Appeals, the judges said that at this stage none of its members had had the opportunity to comment on the various allegations of bias in their finding.
This was because there was litigation pending in the Supreme Court of Cassation, the statement said.
“As judges constitutionally charged with the duty to protect the rights and legitimate interests of citizens, legal entities and the state, we consider it our irrevocable duty to inform the public of the following: the act has come into force and is subject to immediate execution.
“The procedure initiated at the request of the Prosecutor-General did not change this fact.”
Any speculation regarding the execution of the judicial act, including those concerning the future decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation on the request for reopening, are not in accordance with the established legal order.
“If there are other reasons for the detention of a foreign national, other than those in the case, it should be pointed out by them, not by the forthcoming ruling of the (Supreme Court of Cassation),” the statement said.
In the rule of law, decisions by a court must be respected unconditionally, it said.
“Otherwise, citizens are left with an arbitrariness that is indefensible. This, and not personal attacks on members of the court, is the reason for expressing this position.”
It said that the institution of parole was regulated in almost every legal system in the world.
“It is neither an instrument for reviewing the sentence that has entered into force, nor for reducing the sentence imposed.”
Its legitimate aim is to address the question of whether the convicted person may not serve the full sentence imposed by being given a probationary period.
The statement said that conditional early release may be granted to a convicted person for any crime, regardless of the gravity and type of the crime, with the exception of life imprisonment.
The convicted person must have served half of his sentence, and in the case of recidivism, two-thirds. The other requirement is that the convicted person must have provided evidence of his correction.
This was subject to specific assessment based on evidence.
The statement said that in the case of Palfreeman, the court had accepted the evidence of correction, given that during his imprisonment, awards had been conferred on Palfreeman, the disciplinary sanctions imposed on him had passed the deadline to be taken into consideration, and he had taken part in all available training and qualification courses, including mastering written and spoken Bulgarian.
Palfreeman had assisted the prison governors in their contacts with other imprisoned foreign nationals, and had worked, including on his own initiative, without receiving remuneration.
He had registered an association that has developed and is active in the public interest, the statement said.
It appears from the prison administration’s reports that, during the years in which the sentence was served, Palfreeman’s behaviour had progressed, leading to a very low risk of recidivism.
“The same reports contain positive data regarding the convicted person’s personality, including the finding that ‘the prisoner fully accepts the responsibility of the offence, understands the reasons for it and acknowledges the harm of his behaviour’.”
The compensation granted by the European Court of Human Rights to Palfreeman had been transferred to the account of the relatives of the victim.
Based on prison records and information from prison authorities who had the most contact with Palfreeman, the requirements in the law had been met, that the amount of sentence remaining cannot be grounds for refusing to grant conditional early release if the overall behaviour of the convicted person was positive, the statement said. It said that such a decision was not unprecedented.
(Photo: Jason Morrison)