Parole Board Rule Reforms
In March 2018, following the High Court decision in the case of Worboys, the Secretary of State announced a comprehensive review of the Parole Board rules. The report, following that review, has now been published and several proposals for further reforms have now been set out.
- A new reconsideration mechanism so if there is a seriously flawed release decision by the Parole Board it can be looked at again without the need for judicial review.
The Secretary of State will able to apply for reconsideration to the Parole Board, taking account of any representations from victims. Additionally, prisoners can also apply for reconsideration if they are of the view the decision reached by the Parole Board is flawed (illegal, irrational or procedurally unfair). This only applies to decisions for indeterminate sentence prisoners and extended sentence prisoners. The idea is that it will no longer be necessary to resort to costly and time-consuming judicial review proceedings.
Decisions on whether a case should be reconsidered will be taken by judicial members of the Parole Board. Reasons for their decisions will be provided to victims.
Provision will be made in the Parole Board Rules to implement these changes later this year. Between now and then, the Parole Board will put into place the necessary guidance, training and resources needed to operate this mechanism.
- The Parole Board will publish clear procedures and standard practice to support quality and consistency in decision making.
Future measures to implement this proposal includes the Parole Board developing Standard Practice guidance which clarifies the procedures and processes that members should follow. The current Generic Parole Process Prison Service Instruction will be replaced with a new Policy Framework, aiming to improve timescales.
In the Worboys case the Court concluded that the evidence relating to other offences for which he had not been convicted was relevant to his future risk; and the Parole Board should have had regard to it. The judgment has, therefore, shifted the previous established position. The Parole Board has, therefore, issued guidance to members outlining how and when they should take wider alleged offending into account. This guidance will be published but, in summary, panels are now expected to take into account other untried offending, and come to their own conclusion as to the weight that should be given to it. An explanation should be given as to whether further inquiry was or was not necessary.
- Further improvements to engagement with victims and the commitments in the Victims Strategy will be delivered.
This includes providing a more comprehensive explanation of the Victim Personal Statement (VPS) and its purpose in a parole context and training to improve the way VLOs communicate with victims, including understanding the victim experience.
- A new operational protocol between the Parole Board and Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) will clarify roles and responsibilities within the parole system.
- A new policy framework, published by HMPPS, will implement improvements to timescales which the review found could make the process more efficient.
- A new Rules Committee will keep the Rules under review and enable quicker future changes if needed.
Whether the proposals and implementations are successful remains to be seen; it must be borne in mind the review of the Parole Board rules was a knee jerk reaction to the position following Worboys. In the current climate of procedural change it is vital all indeterminate and extended sentence prisoners receive expert legal advice and representation for their Parole Board review.