A Root-and-Branch review of the parole system in England and Wales has been launched today (20 October 2020) by Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer QC, to help improve the public trust and victim confidence.
Oct 20, Ministry of Justice: The review will build on recent reforms to improve the transparency of the Parole Board’s work but will also look at more fundamental changes. This will include providing recommendations on immediate changes but also on whether the current model – the Parole Board - is the most effective and efficient system for deciding whether prisoners should continue to be detained.
Currently, parole hearings are conducted by a panel of between one and three members who come from a variety of backgrounds, including judges and psychiatrists, and receive extensive training. The panel considers a wide range of evidence and hears the opinions of professionals who have been working with a prisoner, for example, a probation officer or prison psychologist, and listens to victims about the impact the crime had on their lives. The decision the panel must make is whether the risk a prisoner poses has reduced and can now be managed safely outside of prison.
The work of the Parole Board has increased significantly in recent years and it now holds over 30 times more oral hearings than it did twenty years ago – around 8,000 every year.
The review will consider:
whether the constitution and status of the Parole Board need to change in order to better reflect the court-like decisions it takes and to make sure it has the necessary powers.
whether alternatives such as a tribunal might deliver the parole function in a more efficient way.
whether additional measures are needed to strengthen its powers, for example, specific new legislative powers to compel witnesses to attend hearings and to enforce the directions it makes, in addition to its existing powers as an independent judicial body
The launch fulfils a manifesto commitment aimed at improving public trust and confidence in the parole system and comes a month after the Lord Chancellor unveiled plans to overhaul sentencing so that sexual and violent offenders serve longer jail time.
Launching the review, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC, said:
Over the last 2 years, our reforms have made the Parole Board’s work more transparent and easier to understand for victims and the wider public. We now have the opportunity to take a more fundamental look at the system to ensure it continues to protect people by releasing offenders only when it is safe to do so and does this in the most effective way.