Saturday 6 January 2018

Parole Board ~ some key points

The John Worboys case (previous post) has certainly brought the workings of the Parole Board to the fore.  This post notes some key points about the Board's decision making.

1)  The Board's jurisdiction now stems from section 239 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 from which it will be seen that the duty of the Board is to advise the Secretary of State with respect to any matter referred to it by him which is to do with the early release or recall of prisoners - s.239(2).

2)  The word "advise" perhaps suggests that the final decision rests with the Secretary of State.  However, under modern law, a duty to release arises once specified requirements are met.  As an example, suppose that Prisoner P is sentenced to the "new" form of extended sentence under Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.226A (as inserted by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 s.124).   The duty to release on licence Prisoner P is set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.246A - (again, as inserted by LASPO).  Note that, under s.246A, the Board "directs" release - s246A(5)(b).

3)  The Parole Board conducts a form of "risk assessment." The Board acts on a referral from the Secretary of State and the test applied is that the Board has to be satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that P should be confined. 

4)  In making recommendations for the release of prisoners, the Parole Board exercises a judicial function -  see the McGetrick case 2013 at para 44)

5)  An oral hearing may be required prior to making a decision and, following the Supreme Court judgment in Osborn v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61 there has been an increase in the number of oral hearings.

6)  The Parole Board Rules 2016 apply.

7)  Rule 25 prevents publicity of decisions - "Information about proceedings under these Rules and the names of persons concerned in the proceedings must not be made public."

Note 24th May - Rule 25 has been amended - see HERE and HERE.   A member of the public can now request a summary of any Parole Board decision made on or after 22 May 2018 though there are grounds upon which a request can be rejected.

8)  Schedule 1 to the Rules sets down the information to be supplied by the Secretary of State to the Board on a reference to the Board to determine the initial release of a prisoner.  These include information relating the the prisoner and reports about the prisoner.

9)  Rule 8 allows the Secretary of State to apply to the Board to withhold information from the prisoner, or from both the prisoner and their representative, in certain circumstances - e.g. national security.

10)  A Parole Board hearing is NOT a trial.  Hearings are held in private - Rule 22.  The hearing is aimed at making an assessment of whether it would be safe to release the prisoner.  The Board must be satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that P should be confined.

11)  Unlike a criminal trial, formal rules of evidence do not apply to Parole Board hearings.  The Board must conduct its decision-making process in a manner which, so far as is practical and appropriate in the circumstances, ensures that the prisoner is fairly treated - R (Roberts) v Parole Board  [2005] UKHL 45 at para 65.

12)  Written reasons must be given for decisions - Rule 24.

13)  The Parole Board has published:

Parole: Process
Parole: Guidance for prisoners and their families
Parole: Guidance for Victims of Crime
Parole: Guidance for practitioners
15)  The Legal Action Group has published - Parole Board hearings: Law and Practice

16)  There is no appeals process against Parole Board decisions but judicial review is available in appropriate cases - see HERE

17)  Reform of the Parole Board system has been proposed - Justice (2009) - A new parole system for England and Wales.   This report suggested an independent Parole Tribunal be established.  The report also proposed appeals to "a dedicated chamber within the Upper Tier."  Such a process might be thought preferable to judicial review.  See Tribunals Structure.

Other links:

Garden Court North - Questions arising from the release of .... John Worboys

Secretary of State for Justice:

9th January - The newly appointed Secretary of State for Justice - Mr David Gauke MP - made a statement to the House of Commons relating to the Worboys case.  Read the statement here.  Mr Gauke said - " ... there is a strong case to review the case for transparency in the process for parole decisions and how victims are appropriately engaged in that process, and consider the case for changes in policy, practice or the Parole Board Rules, or other guidance or procedures including the Victims’ Code. With that in mind, I can confirm that I have instructed my officials to establish a review to examine these questions and I will share more information on this shortly."

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