The Parole Board responds to the government's response to the Victim Commissioner's report on the Probation Victim Contact Scheme.
We welcome the launch of the new Victims’ Code and the Probation Victim Contact Scheme and support the comments from the Minister.
We now look forward to continue working with the Victims’ Commissioner on ensuring victims are engaged appropriately and sensitively in the parole process.
When considering a prisoner’s suitability for release, the Parole Board is very mindful of the concern and anxiety which victims and their families are likely to feel. The Parole Board takes its responsibilities towards victims extremely seriously and has been working closely with victims and Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) to ensure that the needs and concerns of victims are taken into consideration where appropriate.
Over recent years, the Parole Board has given careful consideration to how victims are consulted and involved in the parole process and how open and transparent the process should be, within current legal constraints. As a result, the Parole Board and NOMS have introduced a number of initiatives to improve victims’ experience. Since 2007, victims and their family members have been offered the opportunity to submit a victim personal statement (VPS), which forms part of the main dossier of evidence that is considered by the Parole Board. If there is an oral hearing, the victim can apply to read the statement to the panel or have someone else do it on their behalf. This facility was introduced in response to the 2006 Victims’ Code of Practice.
In 2012 the Parole Board worked closely with partners in the Ministry of Justice to deliver training to VLOs in each probation trust. VLOs are responsible for working with victims and their families during the parole process and this training was provided to VLOs in order to help them explain the process to victims, to support victims throughout the process and to help and prepare victims to submit a victim personal statement and request specific licence conditions, for example, to prevent the offender contacting them.
This year, the Parole Board has increased the use of video-links and this has improved access for victims and means that they do not need to travel – sometimes considerable distances – to a prison to read their VPS if they do not wish to, and do not have to enter a prison which can often be extremely stressful.
The Parole Board is committed to continuing to work with victims in order to improve the parole process and the Chairman of the Parole Board, Sir David Calvert-Smith met with the Victims’ Commissioner earlier this year to listen to her concerns and explore what work can be done to improve the parole process further.
Notes to editors
The Parole Board is an independent body that works with its criminal justice partners to protect the public by risk assessing prisoners to decide whether they can safely be released into the community. The board has responsibility for considering life sentence prisoners (mandatory life, discretionary life and automatic life sentence prisoners and Her Majesty’s Pleasure detainees; and prisoners given indeterminate sentences for public protection); and determinate sentence cases (discretionary conditional release prisoners serving more than 4 years whose offence was committed before 4 April 2005; prisoners given extended sentences for public protection for offences committed on or after 4 April 2005; and prisoners given an Extended Determinate Sentence after 3 December 2012). The board considers initial release into the community and re-release following a recall to prison.
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