A record number of hearings
Las week (21 July 2020), the parole board published its annual report and accounts for 2019/20. I’ve had a browse through the report and picked out what I hope are facts of interest to readers.
1: A busy year
In 2019/20 the Parole Board made 13,912 final decisions and directed a further 6,795 to an oral hearing. This represented a record number of hearings and 3,157 prisoners were released.
2: About a quarter of parole board hearings result in release
Whilst the Parole Board consistently progressed significant numbers of prisoners, only one in four prisoners met the Parole Board’s stringent requirements for release.
3: A low rate of serious further offences
During 2019/20, 1% of prisoners previously released or progressed to open conditions by the Parole Board
were charged with a Serious Further Offence. This percentage is below other parole jurisdictions around the world, however each case is of concern and thoroughly reviewed internally.
4: Staffing numbers
There are 264 parole board members (the individuals who sit on hearings and make decisions) and 141 members of staff.
The total net expenditure by the Parole Board in 2019/20 was £19.059 million – up from £17.474m the year before.
6: The Terrorism Act
Following the terrorist attacks in London in November 2019 and February 2020, the Lord Chancellor
announced that in future all Terrorism Act (‘TACT’) prisoners with a determinate sentence will be
referred to the Parole Board at the two thirds point of their sentence. The new law came into effect on 27 February 2020 and will roughly double the number of TACT prisoners referred to the Parole Board each year to around 50.
7: Reconsideration mechanism
A new reconsideration mechanism was also introduced. As at March 2020, reconsideration had been ordered in 20 cases, 18 of which were as a result of applications by prisoners and 2 from the Secretary of State.
8: Information to victims
The Parole Board has worked closely with victims’ organisations to improve information available to
victims, including an online video. The Board has also updated the guidance for members on duties
towards victims. A victim is now entitled to:
- receive regular updates on a prisoner’s progress in custody (including when their parole hearing will be).
- submit a Victim Personal Statement to the Parole Board (and can ask to read it out to the panel if they wish).
- request licence conditions.
- request a summary of a parole decision.
- ask for reconsideration of a parole decision via the Secretary of State (as at 22 July 2019).
Over 1,739 summaries of decisions were provided to victims.
9: Improving diversity
The Parole Board made progress towards a more diverse membership that better reflects the community it serves and that brings a mix of perspectives and experience to decision-making. Four campaigns were completed after extensive outreach in the North of England, and these resulted
in a record number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates being appointed:
- 53 independent members were appointed, 46% of whom are from a BAME background.
- Prior to these campaigns, fewer than 5% of the Parole Board’s members identified as being from a BAME background.
- These appointments triple the number and will bring the Parole Board’s BAME diversity to nearly 13%. This outcome is an important foundation in the Parole Board’s strategic vision and this success will be built upon in 2020 with further targeted recruitment campaigns.
10: Overall caseload
The active caseload of the Parole Board increased from 8,605 cases in April 2019 to 9,059 cases in March 2020.