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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

looking at oral hearings before the Parole Board, the new listing policy and what can be done about delays that may be encountered.

I am due a Review. What can I expect?

If you are subject to a Parole or Recall Review you will be provided with a Parole Dossier or Recall pack. This is all the information that the Parole Board will have about you when they come to make a decision about your case. Any additional reports written about you will be added into that dossier or pack of papers.
All those subject to a Review are entitled to make written representations to be added to the information given to the Parole Board. The content of written representations can and will vary on a case by case basis. As a guide they ought to address what you are seeking as a result of the review. This could be release, progression to open conditions or a deferral of the review process to enable you to access courses. What is important is that the body of the representations set out justification for your application and address whether there is a need for your case to progress to an oral hearing. It is advisable that you seek legal advice about what to put in the written representations, particularly as they may be helpful in ensuring that your case proceeds to an oral hearing.
Not all cases necessarily need to progress to an oral hearing and for some it is beneficial for them to be concluded on the papers alone. This is not a decision that should be taken likely, you should think carefully about whether to get expert advice about what they want to achieve as a result of the review process. Decision letters issued by the Parole Board can often impact upon your sentence planning targets and you may see yourself being prioritised for offending behaviour courses that may be need to be completed before you can be released.

I have made written representations what now?

Some may feel that by simply submitting written representations their voice will not be heard as well as if they were able to address the Parole Board in person. As a result of the case of Osborn, Booth and Reilly a prisoner who wishes to have an oral hearing is likely to be able to argue that their case should progress to an oral hearing. If in any doubt the Parole Board are directed to hold a hearing. What has been clear is that fairness to the prisoner in the individual case before the Board is the over-riding factor. This is quite clearly a positive change in policy for those wanting an oral hearing.
Once the Parole Board have considered the paper review, a decision letter will be issued to confirm whether a case has been concluded on the papers or is being progressed to an oral hearing. That letter will set out any directions or things that the Parole Board would like to be seen done prior to the hearing taking place. This will usually include updated reports from those working with you or reports or documents that were missing that the Parole Board wants to consider. It will also indicate the witnesses that the Parole Board will want to be at the hearing to give evidence.
In the event that your request for an oral hearing has been refused, you will have the chance to appeal against this decision by making further written representations. There are time limits in order for this to be done and it is almost always advisable for you to seek expert advice about how to go about drafting any appeal representations.

My case is going to a hearing, but when?

If the Parole Board decides to grant you an oral hearing, you will not get a date for this hearing immediately. You will simply be provided with notification that a hearing has been granted. It is therefore important to remain patient and try not to let any delay frustrate you. It is a good idea to keep in contact where possible with your Offender Manager and your Offender Supervisor and if you can do any further work whilst waiting for your hearing date then you should try to do so.
There has been a significant increase in cases being progressed for an oral hearing and the Parole Board are attempting to hear as many hearings as possible. In March 2014 the Parole Board gave hearing dates for 558 cases which they state is the maximum capacity within their current resources. However, there were another 467 cases that were ready to be listed which did not secure a date.
Prior to the Parole Board's change in policy, oral hearings were usually listed around 2 months after the decision to grant an oral hearing was made. However, the Parole Board has stated that if "this trend continues we are likely to see delays of at least three months over and above the usual timeframe for cases waiting to secure an oral hearing date." This could mean you waiting at least 5 months for a hearing date.
Is there anything I can do about the delay?

The Parole Board is supposed to list hearings in accordance with its "Listing Prioritisation Framework." This framework is designed to ensure that the most urgent and oldest cases receive the earliest available dates for a hearing. If you are experiencing a delay then the Parole Board will have sent you a letter advising you to seek advice and discuss your individual situations with a legal representative, where you have access to one. This is important as your legal representative will be able to consider whether your case has been listed in accordance with the framework provided. If a challenge can be made to the delay and your hearing date brought forward then this should be done.
The Parole Board is working to address the delays that are being encountered but at present around 550 cases are listed a month which is the maximum current capacity. The Parole Board has said that they are aiming to increase this to 750 cases per month. What is clear is that the Parole Board is now more willing to hear your voice, but getting to that stage is far from easy. You are encouraged to be positive and proactive and where possible use delays to your advantage by securing more home leaves, getting further offending work done or simply getting to know or rebuilding relations with your Offender Manager and Offender Supervisor.
We hope that from reading this article you will have a better understanding of the Parole Board's current policy for listing oral hearings. We would like to like help you have your voice heard and therefore if you need any help or advice with your Parole Review process or any prison law issues please contact Emma Davies or Matt Smith at Hine Solicitors. FREEPOST RTHU LEKE HAZR Hine Solicitors, Seymour House, 285 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7JF or telephone 01865 518971.

By Emma Davies and Matthew Smith, from insidetime issue June 2014

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