The Victim Personal Statement has played an important part in the Parole Board process since 2007, by enabling victims to have a voice in parole reviews. New guidance was published in February 2014 following the publication of the Victims’ Code in 2013, and is currently under further review following consultation with victims’ representative groups.
Victim Liaison Officers, working in the National Probation Service, work with victims and advise and support them when preparing their statements. The National Offender Management Service has provided detailed guidance on this Victim Contact Scheme for parole hearings.
The Parole Board values Victim Personal Statements and recognises the importance of giving victims the opportunity to make their voices heard. Parole hearings involve an assessment of the risk the prisoner poses to the public, including the victim of his crime, if he is released.
The Victims Code sets out the entitlements for victims which are:
- be informed by the probation trust if a Parole Board hearing is to take place
- make representations about licence conditions to the Parole Board
- be provided with an explanation if a licence condition you have requested is not included on the offender’s release licence
- have the Victim Personal Statement (VPS) explained to you by your VLO, including how it will be used by the Parole Board
- make a VPS which will be sent to the Parole Board
- apply to attend an oral Parole Board hearing to present your VPS in cases where the Parole Board decides that it is appropriate to hold an oral hearing
Victim Personal Statements can play an important part in helping Parole Board panels to make that assessment, for example by suggesting questions to put to the offender about their understanding of the consequences of their behaviour and empathy for their victims. Where release is being considered, Victim Personal Statements can assist in setting appropriate licence conditions such as exclusion zones and conditions for the offender not to contact the victim.
The Parole Board ultimately makes decisions based on the offender’s current level of risk and in most cases the victim is unlikely to have information on this. Where a victim does have information that may assist the Board’s assessment of current risk, victims are encouraged to share this with Probation staff who can present this as evidence to the Parole Board. This ensures victims are not unnecessarily faced with having to attend hearings and give evidence as a witness where they could be subject to questioning from the panel or legal representatives.
The Parole Board recognises that producing a victim statement can be a difficult and often distressing experience as it raises strong emotions associated with the offence. Victims can ask the Parole Board to consider impact statements which were prepared at the time of the trial if they would prefer.
When making a decision the Parole Board will take into account the nature of the index offence, the prisoner’s offending history, the prisoner’s progress in prison, any statement made on behalf of the victim(s), and a range of reports from psychologists, probation officers and prison officers. The Parole Board will also consider whether there is a robust plan in place to manage the offender safely in open prison or in the community following release.
The Parole Board published ‘Practice Guidance on Duties Towards Victims’ in February 2014.
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.
For further information please call Glenn Gathercole, Business Development Directorate on 0300-047 4348 during office hours, or 07725-927954 out of hours, or email firstname.lastname@example.org