Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Reform of the Parole Board

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The Warboys affair, in which the Parole Board recommended the release from jail of a London taxi driver who had been convicted of a number of rapes and who was suspected of involvement in other offences, caused public outcry in January 2018. It lead to the resignation of the Chair of the Parole Board, Prof Nick Hardwick. And the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, was clearly anxious that there should be changes to the ways in which the Parole Board worked (somewhat disingenuously, as the Parole Board itself had  for sometime been arguing for change).

A review of the Parole Board was announced in January 2018 (see this blog for 24 January 2018). The review was asked to look at the following issues:

  1. the law, policy, guidance and practice relating to challenges to Parole Board decision-making
  2. the transparency of Parole Board decision-making
  3. victim involvement in Parole Board hearings
  4. arrangements for communicating with victims

The result of this review was published on April 28 2018. It can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/703534/review-of-the-law_policy-and-procedure-relating-to-parole-board-decisions.pdf

The Government has made a number of important announcements which will affect the ways in which the Parole Board undertakes its work going forward.

In particular, Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules – which currently prohibits publication of details of parole board decisions – will be amended in favour of much greater transparency.

In addition, the Government has announced that it will make immediate changes to how it communicates with victims, as well as looking at how more victims can be offered the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS).

A more fundamental change proposed is that there should be created, within the Parole Board itself, a mechanism for the reconsideration of decisions taken by the Board, that would remove the necessity of parties having to launch expensive proceedings in the Courts for judicial review. The precise ways in which the reconsideration process should work have not  yet been finalised, but  a Consultation Paper setting out various options and suggestions has been published with views sought by the end of July 2018. It is anticipated that reconsiderations would in general be chaired by judges who are members of the Parole Board.

See https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/reconsideration-of-parole-board-decisions/

There has also been published the terms of reference for a full review of the Parole Board Rules, with the specific object of trying to improve the transparency of the work of the Board.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-the-parole-board-rules

The speed with which these first decisions have been taken is an indication of the political pressure to respond to the outcry created by the Warboys case. Further details, in particular on the proposed reconsideration process, will be considered here in due course. It is worth observing that the Secretary of State’s strategy can be delivered entirely through changes to regulations, which will not require parliamentary time.

 

 

 

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Written by lwtmp

April 30, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Chapter 5

Tagged with ,

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