Thursday 31 March 2022

Raab to seek further powers ~ Root and branch review of the Parole System

The Parole Board has a crucial and difficult role in the administration of criminal justice. It carries out risk assessments on those prisoners eligible for parole to determine whether they can be safely released into the community.

The Board's website states that "Parole Board decisions are solely focused on whether a prisoner would represent a significant risk to the public after release. The risk assessment is based on detailed evidence found in the dossier (a collection of documents relating to the prisoner) and evidence provided at the oral hearing."

About us - Parole Board - GOV.UK (

Reform - some recent background:

In February 2019, the government announced a "tailored review of the Parole Board." At the same time, reviews were to be undertaken of the parole board rules, the reconsideration mechanism, and lack of diversity among parole board members was to be addressed. Law and Lawyers: Parole Board ~ update (

In October 2020, the outcome of the tailored review was published - Parole System Reform - GOV.UK ( and billed as a "Root and Branch Review of the Parole System."

Another review:

On 30 March 2022, the present Secretary of State for Justice (Dominic Raab MP) announced yet another "Root and Branch Review of the Parole System" - Root and Branch Review of the Parole System - GOV.UK ( - and it is claimed that the reforms will keep dangerous prisoners off the streets - Parole reform to keep dangerous prisoners off streets - GOV.UK (

The government also published - Parole Board release data and Serious Further Offences - GOV.UK ( - covering Parole Board release outcomes relating to a specified top-tier of cases involving the most serious index offences. The top-tier index offences are: murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Dominic Raab's statement to the House of Commons is at Parole System: Public Protection - Hansard - UK Parliament.

It would be foolish not to accept that there is public concern about a number of parole board decisions and several were referred to during the Commons debate  - Colin Pitchfork (convicted of murder committed in 1983 - previous post), John Worboys (sex offender - previous post), Steven Ling, Paul Robson, Shane Farrington

The statement also referred to Tracey Connelly (mother of Baby P). Connelly was sentenced in 2009 to an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment (with a minimum term of 5 years) having pleaded guilty to causing or allowing the death of Baby P. Dominic Raab said that he was asking the parole board to reconsider its latest decision to release her. Dominic Raab to appeal against release of Baby P’s mother from prison | Baby P | The Guardian

The latest root and branch reforms include -

  • making the Statutory Release Test clearer
  • creating a top-tier cohort of offenders who have committed the most serious crimes whose release decisions will be subject to a more precautionary approach, including new ministerial oversight
  • greater ministerial oversight of prisoners’ moves to open conditions
  • increasing the number of Parole Board members with law enforcement experience
  • increasing victim participation in parole hearings, fulfilling the manifesto commitment made in 2019

The whole release system is therefore likely to become much more risk averse particularly in the more serious cases.

Ministerial power:

In his statement to the House of Commons, Raab made it clear that he will be seeking additional ministerial powers in relation to certain release decisions made by the Parole Board. He said -

"The third key reform is that, for the top-tier cohort of high-risk offenders who have committed the most serious offences, we will introduce ministerial oversight of Parole Board decisions to release such offenders back into the community, based on our assessment of the dangerousness of the offender, the risk of serious further offending and public confidence. These top-tier offenders will comprise those serving sentences for murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child. In those cases, we will make two specific changes. The Parole Board will be able to refer a case to the Justice Secretary if it cannot confidently conclude whether, on the evidence, the statutory test for release has been met. In addition, we will introduce ministerial oversight over any decision to release any offender in the top-tier cohort of serious offenders. Under our reforms, in that top tier of cases the Justice Secretary will have the power to refuse release, subject to judicial challenge, on very clearly prescribed grounds, in the upper tribunal. I believe that is warranted as an extra check and safeguard to protect the public. I have not yet ruled out entirely an alternative model that could establish a three-person panel chaired by the Justice Secretary with the same power to refuse release, subject to judicial review in the normal way. We will consider further detail of the mechanism in order to strike the most effective balance."

Legislation will be required to give the Secretary of State such additional powers. Parliament ought to be very careful about what it grants. The Secretary of State, unlike the Parole Board, always has an eye on the government's position in opinion polls (for what they are worth), and in populist media comment (again, for what it is worth). 

It is crucial to keep in mind that the punishment aspect of any sentence is determined by an independent  court. Once that has been served, the question becomes whether it is safe to release that individual.

In the case of serious offenders, release will be on licence with stringent conditions and the individual is liable to recall to prison if the licence is breached.

For release on licence see- Licence Conditions and how the Parole Board use them - GOV.UK (

Raab's plans are further discussed at Can Raab block parole? - by Joshua Rozenberg (

Links and Note:

Parole Board - GOV.UK (

Dominic Raab to create power of veto that could keep 100 dangerous criminals in prison each year (

Parole System: Public Protection - Hansard - UK Parliament

Can Raab block parole? - by Joshua Rozenberg (

Since May 2010 there have been eight Secretaries of State for Justice. In February 2019 was David Gauke. In July 2019, Robert Buckland QC MP was appointed. A general election was held in December 2019 with a Conservative government again elected. Dominic Raab MP became Secretary of State for Justice in September 2021.

No comments:

Post a Comment