MoJ promises greater transparency in parole boards after Worboys controversy
New measures announced by the Justice Secretary David Gauke over the weekend will allow victims of crime to challenge parole board decisions for the first time. Aimed at increasing transparency, the proposals include a judge-led process that could, in some instances, be open to the public to force the board to reconsider a decision without victims having to resort to a judicial review.
The review of the prole system was commissioned in January in an attempt to restore public confidence following the controversy over the release of the serial sex attacker John Worboys, a decision which was blocked by the High Court in March.
As part of the reforms a parole board rule has been amended in line with the judicial review of the Worboys case to remove the blanket prohibition which prevents disclosing information about its decision making creating the presumption that victims will receive summaries of the reasons for decisions.
In addition, the rules will now also require the board members to provide an overview of the arguments heard in the case, the recommendations of expert witnesses, the offender’s progress and risk factors, the evidence provided by the offender and the reasons for the panel’s decision.
Dauke said the reforms would introduce transparency of its decisions. ‘But we are going further and consulting on a new way to challenge Parole Board decisions that would be judge-led and could, in some circumstances, be open to the public. And we’re not stopping there.’ The minister added that he was also unveiling ‘the terms of reference for our comprehensive review of the entire Parole Board, including whether we should in some circumstances name panel members, whether we should define the panel composition, and what kinds of further scrutiny measures should be introduced’.
We will also improve the process for victims, who in this case were clearly let down. It is my ambition that the outcome of this process will mean victims have more confidence in the system. We have moved at pace to address the shortcomings of the parole system, which the Worboys case has brought to light. But we must take a balanced approach. I am determined to lead a thorough reform process.
Other proposals for increasing the transparency of the parole process include the publishing of summaries from the Board’s decisions online, as well as making information about panel members and other details public. There are also plans to expand the victim contact scheme to victims of more types of offences and in cases where a serious charge lies on file but has not resulted in a conviction.
This article was first published on May 2, 2018