Changes To Be Made To The Parole Board?
Review of the Parole Board
The role of the Parole Board is as an independent body to analyse the risk surrounding prisoners serving certain sentences in order to assess whether or not it is safe to release them into the community.
For a person to be considered fit for release, then their risk level has been reduced to a point where it can be effectively managed in the community. They may still pose a threat on some level, however.
It was widely publicised last year that the Parole Board had considered the infamous ‘black cab rapist’, John Worboys, fit for release. Numerous challenges were made to the decision.
Following the challenges, the decision was overturned by the High Court, and Worboys remains in prison. After this the Parole Board system was reviewed. Then there was a public consultation that followed on further reforms.
The government have now announced the outcome of the further review and that various changes will be introduced.
The main change is to create a new reconsideration mechanism. A model has been developed in order to shape the way in which this should operate, and it will apply in cases where the decision appears to be legally flawed or meets judicial review type criteria.
It is the responsibility of the victim liaison officer to explain to victims how the process operates and the timescales involved.
In order to reduce costs, the representations will be made to the Public Protection Casework Section so that court proceedings will not be needed, thereby reducing the cost considerably. The PPCS will then refer appropriate applications to the Parole Board for reconsideration.
Prisoners will have the option to apply for reconsideration if they believe it to be a flawed decision not to release them. These applications shall be made directly to the Parole Board.
In order to improve victim communication and engagement a Victim Contact Scheme is to be rolled out to a wider range of victims. Victims will be provided with information on things such as how the sentence will operate and the likely release date of the prisoner.
A victim may make representations to be considered by the Board for licence conditions and will be told the extent to which the representations were considered, as well as the chance to request a decision summary.
A Victim Personal Statement can be produced, and the Victims’ Code will contain a presumption that anyone who wishes to read out their VPS can do so unless there is a safety/security risk or another good reason not to.
The VPS may not be disclosed to the offender if that is requested by the victim.
Transparency and openness
The Parole Board will publish a series of Standard Practice guidance to provide clear and public information about what sort of information, factors and so forth will be taken into account when making decisions.
Allowing public access to hearings was considered, however this won’t be allowed because of the privacy, security and practical barriers due to the hearings being held in prisons.
To make clear the standard requirements for parole cases, Standard Directions on evidence will be published and the requirements for a “core dossier” shall be set out. New rules on service and transmission of evidence are going to be introduced alongside new timescales.
Regarding the way in which alleged offending can be taken into account, guidance has now been issued. This means that, for the first time, offences that haven’t resulted in conviction may be considered.
A tailored review (see below) will look at statutory options which could include the creation of quality assurance or inspectorate style functions.
There will be training for members on how to deal with unconvicted offences, and training for effective questioning skills will be mandatory.
Efficiency and effectiveness
To ensure cases are processed and concluded in a robust and timely way, measures are being put into place. A new Policy Framework will implement identified improvements to timescales, and the Standard Practice guidance shall clarify the processes and procedures to follow.
What happens now?
Some of these measures are being introduced already, while others are expected over the coming months.
From now on, a Tailored Review of the Parole Board will take place to consider whether there is a case for further reforms.
Included in this is the consideration as to whether the Parole Board should be reconstituted to become a judge-led tribunal and whether the powers or responsibilities conferred on the Board should be changed.
How can we help?
At Morton’s Solicitors, we have a specialist team of motor offence defence solicitors and we are always happy to answer any questions you might have. Call 0161 477 1121 for more details.