Dominic Raab plans to curtail the powers of the Parole Board and ‘take back powers’ to stop the release of criminals from jail. The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the justice secretary is to seek to tighten the criteria for release of offenders and that he would restructure the board to prevent a repeat of scandals such as the release of Colin Pitchfork, a double child murderer, and the so called Black cab rapist John Worboys.
According to the Telegraph, the change would ‘dovetail with post-Brexit plans,’ and seeks to provide Parliament with ‘greater powers to override European judges’ in relation to human rights as part of a new British Bill of Rights. A ‘source’ told the paper that the Justice Secretary ‘wants to introduce a power through which he will be able to block decisions in certain cases. It would be a ministerial check on release in the most sensitive cases. This is about public protection.’ It was reported that such a change ‘would return the parole board to its pre-1990s role for the most serious cases when it made recommendations to ministers which they could reject or accept’.
The parole board has long been in the government’s sights for reforms – for example, Boris Johnson dismissed the body as ‘simple slaves to political correctness’.
Raab’s review is also expected to give victims a new independent right of appeal. ‘A victim or the Justice Secretary can challenge a parole decision by the board, as happened with Pitchfork, but this only requires it to reconsider its verdict to release the offender from prison,’ the paper said. ‘Victims will get an automatic right to apply to attend any parole board hearing their case although the final decision will rest with the panel’s chairman.’ Apparently, plans to rename the board the ‘public protection’ or ‘risk assessment’ board have been dropped as have proposals to turn it into a new open court or tribunal system.