Improving victims engagement in the parole process
Applies to England and Wales
Baroness Newlove, a former Victims’ Commissioner, has produced a short 4 minute video setting out some facts about Victim Personal Statements and how to make one for the Parole Board.
Victim Contact Scheme
If you are the victim of a violent or sexual crime, and the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more, you will be entitled to receive information from the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS).
Joining the scheme means you will be allocated a Victim Liaison Officer who will:
- Explain how sentencing works
- Keep you updated on the offender’s prison sentence and release
- Tell you if the offender is eligible for a Parole Board hearing
- Tell you how to make a statement to be submitted to Parole Board hearings
- Help you request ‘licence conditions’, such as stopping the offender from contacting you or coming near your home
- Help you request a summary of the parole decision
- Help you challenge a parole decision if the Parole Board decides the offender is safe to release
You choose whether or not to join the scheme, and you can change your mind about joining at any point during an offender’s sentence.
You will need to tell your Victim Liaison Officer whenever you change your contact details, so they can stay in contact with you.
If you are interested in joining the VCS please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parole Board’s duty to victims
The Parole Board aims to provide the highest standards of service. We are committed to explaining and providing information about what we do and listening to feedback. This is so that our service to victims continues to improve.
We aim to comply with the Victims’ Code, which sets out how victims can be involved in the parole process, as well as recommendations from reviews and reports issued by the Victims’ Commissioner. We also adhere to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) Principles of Good Complaints Handling.
Victim Personal Statements
The Victim Personal Statement is about the impact the crime had on the victim at the time and continues to have in the present day. A victim can ask for certain conditions to be set should the offender be released, for example to include an exclusion zone of where the victim lives.
Read more about making a Victim Personal Statement
The VPS does not directly influence the decision. This is because the Parole Board’s focus is risk assessment and the VPS does not contain information about risk. If a victim does have information that relates to an offender’s risk, then that information should be passed on to the probation service, who will consider including it in their report. The VPS does allow the panel to direct questions to the offender regarding the impact of their behaviour, insight into their behaviour, remorse and empathy. It gives the panel insight into the original offence and its impact. It also helps the panel decide on appropriate licence conditions, if the offender is to be released. Writing a Victim Personal Statement can be a traumatic experience and victims will be supported throughout the process by a Victim Liaison Officer.
Victim Personal Statements: A new guide for police officers, investigators and criminal justice practitioners was published on 13 September 2018. This guide provides practical advice to anyone who might be involved in the VPS process – including the Parole Board, as well as police officers, staff from the Crown Prosecution Service, Witness Care Units, courts and probation.
Victims and the Parole process
We recognise that the parole process can be unfamiliar and distressing for many people. Despite this, we welcome the fact that victims choose to contribute and we value their participation. Wherever possible we aim to reduce the difficulties involved and improve the experience of victims who engage in the process.
As part of the parole process some victims are entitled to support and information about their case from a Victim Liaison Officer within the Probation Service. To access this service victims will need to sign up to the Victim Contact Scheme, which will then provide them with an opportunity to write a Victim Personal Statement.
(see Summary of Key Entitlements and Chapter 2, Section 6.25 onwards)
We have also produced a shorter information leaflet that provides a brief overview of the key things to think about. There is a checklist included at the back of the leaflet which may be helpful. This leaflet is available in Welsh.
The Board has provided Victim Liaison Officers with an “aide memoire” to assist them to support victims through the process. This document highlights the important timeframes to be followed and other points of note.
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime can be read here.
Training and Learning about victims’ issues
We provide training for:
- Parole Board Members to increase their understanding of the victim’s experience
- Our staff to help develop their knowledge and experience of a victim’s involvement in the parole process and handling enquiries from victims involved in specific cases
- Parole Board members participate in HMPPS roadshows for Victim Liaison Officers where they share best practice and answer questions.
If things go wrong for victims
- We have a process in place to enable concerns and complaints to be investigated and resolved swiftly both informally and formally
- We keep the victim informed of progress of the complaint and respond in their preferred method of communication
- Our process includes the right for the victim to complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if the victim is not satisfied with our response.
This is set out in our Complaints Policy
However, we cannot deal with complaints about decisions the Parole Board makes regarding whether or not to release an offender.
Complaints Officer 0203 334 6921
Improving our service
We keep a log, analyse and report all our complaints and feedback. Our Senior Management Team and Management Committee will identify how our service can be improved based on this report.
Working with other organisations
We work with the Victims’ Commissioner’s Office (VCO), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and other organisations to share good practice, identify and tackle system problems, and look at continuously improving the service for victims.