Parole Board Reforms – Stacking the odds?

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Parole Board Reforms – Stacking the odds?

The current Justice Secretary has long been on record as no fan of the Parole Board. A string of high-profile interventions, primarily unsuccessful, has led to new changes being announced, intending to make it more difficult for many offenders to secure release.

In his latest move, Dominic Raab proposes increasing the number of Parole Board members with a policing background.

In a press release, the Ministry of Justice announced:

"Dozens more former police officers and detectives with experience of managing dangerous offenders will be recruited as part of plans to toughen up the parole system."

There are currently some 26 Board members with a policing background. These reforms will see the number increase to as many as 51.

Recruiting 25 more Parole Board panellists will double the number who have first-hand policing experience in managing serious offenders and the risk they pose – placing a greater focus on public protection in parole hearings.

Further reforms will also see specific reforms to ensure these Board members sit on panels dealing with high-profile cases.

The government said it would legislate to ensure parole reviews of 'top-tier' cases will involve members with policing backgrounds. This category includes the most dangerous offenders convicted of murder, rape, causing or allowing the death of a child and terrorist offences.

Further reforms, including a tougher release test for parole prisoners and new powers for the Justice Secretary to block the release of dangerous offenders, are also set to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Former Justice Secretary, David Gauke, is not supportive of these political interventions, commenting:

"I think moves to increase the role of the Justice Secretary in individual parole decisions are a mistake... I don't think these decisions should, as a matter of principle, be politicised… I think that very often society is safer if prisoners, when they're released, have had time in an open prison to help them reintegrate… And I am sceptical that a Justice Secretary will ever have the time to properly perform that scrutiny role of a large number of decisions."

We will monitor these reforms very closely and consider whether, in appropriate cases, they might be capable of challenge by way of judicial review.

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