The Parole Board has experienced an increase in the demand for oral hearings since the Osborn, Booth and Riley judgment handed down in 2013. This has resulted in delays for a considerable number of prisoners waiting for an oral hearing date. The listing prioritisation framework, which was developed to help us manage the increased volume of cases, currently prioritises recalled determinate sentenced prisoners above most other prisoners when allocating oral hearing dates each month. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the majority of other prisoners experiencing much longer delays before their oral hearing date is set. We recognise that we need to change our current approach in order to ensure fairness across the system.
To address this problem, we have developed 4 trials that we are piloting until the end of March 2017:
We will work closer with the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) to make more effective use of the option of ‘executive release’. Eligible cases will be considered for executive release at an earlier stage of the parole process, before a case is directed to an oral hearing. We hope this will reduce the number of cases waiting in the queue for an oral hearing date and allow prisoners to be released more quickly.
We are extending the cut off point for determinate cases with an upcoming Sentence Expiry Date (SED). We currently conclude cases directed to oral hearing if the SED is within 12 weeks’ time of the oral hearing directions. This is because there is insufficient time to schedule an oral hearing before a prisoner will be automatically released. This will now be extended to 24 weeks.
We will change the listing prioritisation framework so that prisoners who have 12 months or less before their SED will no longer be prioritised. This means most recall cases will no longer be listed ahead of other sentence types, resulting in a fairer system. A full review of the listings framework will take place by April 2017.
We are looking into the possibility of using Ministry of Justice video link rooms across the UK to host hearings for determinate sentence prisoners. Currently, we can only host video link hearings at our London based office which limits our capacity. We hope that by creating regional hubs across the UK, more cases can be heard more swiftly. This will also hopefully ensure prisoners with determinate sentences will not be disadvantaged by the above pilots.
We are taking a flexible approach to these pilots and if any prisoners believe that they have exceptional circumstances that warrant prioritisation of their case they can write to the Parole Board. Such circumstances can include, but are not limited to, medical/mental health issues and/or compassionate reasons for example.