Last year, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment in the case of Osborn, Booth and Reilly, which requires the Parole Board to hold oral hearings in a much larger number of cases than it had in the past.
“”Our plans to increase oral hearings are underway and we are now testing new ways of working. We want to do everything we can to provide hearings on time, ensure those hearings are fair to prisoners and that we meet our main purpose of protecting the public. We are committed to consulting as widely as possible with people who are involved in the parole process. Prisoners are at the heart of this and we would very much like your views on our plans for change.
A Summary of our Proposals 1.
We plan to test whether we can reduce the number of members on oral hearing panels in some cases for lifers/IPP prisoners from three members to two. We will still have the option to include a third member where needed and will consider representations made by prisoners and their legal representatives about this. Recall cases for fixedterm prisoners will continue to be heard by single members.
2. After we receive a parole dossier for a prisoner, we review whether an oral hearing is needed and what other information we need. We want to be clearer about the purpose of the oral hearing for each case and the issues which are likely to be relevant at a much earlier stage. The Parole Board has to focus on suitability for release or, for some prisoners, transfer to open conditions. It cannot consider issues like transfer from Cat A to Cat B or direct that a prisoner complete a specific programme. Prisoners and their legal representatives will be able to make representations about the relevant issues and purpose of a hearing.
3. The arrangements for the hearing will then be made to match the needs of the case including an estimate of how long the hearing should take. There needs to be enough time to ensure the important issues are explored but where appropriate we will look to reduce the time a hearing takes. We want to be able to list cases for hearings more quickly so that the process does not last so long.
4. One Parole Board member will "own" the case and have responsibility to ensure it is concluded as swiftly as possible. As far as possible, that member will remain with the case until it is finished including being part of the oral hearing panel.
5. We want to reduce the number of 'deferred' hearings (those which do not go ahead on the date we have fixed for them). We will be exploring ways of making other organisations more accountable for failing to provide the evidence and witnesses that are needed to an acceptable standard within a reasonable time.
6. We would like to provide shorter, more focused decision letters which still address all the critical issues and are clearer and easier to understand. We want to test some of our ideas over the next few months and will be asking for feedback from people involved in these pilots. We would be very grateful if you would take the time to complete and return a questionnaire which can be found in prison libraries. Please send completed questionnaires to the following address by 30th June 2014:
FREEPOST PAROLE BOARD OBR SURVEY, Grenadier House, 99-105 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2DX
There is no need to use a stamp. Additional copies of the questionnaire can be downloaded from the Inside Time website (www. insidetime.org) by prison librarians.
We will publish a summary of the feedback we receive in the summer. We will also provide a progress report on the changes we are making.
http://www.insidetime.org/articleview.asp?a=1781&c=parole_board_changes__have_your_say issue June 2014