Case study

Psychiatrist members of the Parole Board: a case study

Psychiatrist members of the Parole Board have expertise in forensic psychiatry and interpreting complex data. A member talks about her role.

In assessing the risk a person represents to society, the Parole Board recognises the value of the scientific approach taken by trained and experienced psychiatrists. Their skills support and provide theoretical backup for the decisions we make.

Claire Barkley

I have worked within mental health services in the NHS for 23 years and specialise in forensic psychiatry. My current role is working with men who have both mental health and risk issues, treated by the NHS in conditions of low and medium security. I also work as part of a forensic liaison team advising mental health colleagues in Shropshire. Additionally I have been involved in providing specialist mental health care to women’s prisons for sixteen years.

My work on the board over the past six years has broadened my knowledge of the criminal justice system and especially of the work of prisons and the Probation Service. Most offenders are not mentally ill although many do have complex needs, personality and coping difficulties and substance dependency. It has helped my clinical practice to see a wider range of prisoners.

I find the oral hearings particularly rewarding in that the evidence on the day can sometimes shine enough light on a situation to turn around my initial view of the case. There is no substitute for being able to hear from and ask questions of the prisoner.

Published 23 July 2014