The Parole Board is an independent body that carries out risk assessments on prisoners to determine whether they can be safely released into the community. The Parole Board carries out risk assessments on prisoners in England and Wales according to provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the Crime (Sentence) Act 1997. Their main responsibility is to protect the public.

Meeting Date: 16 May 2017

Matters Discussed:

Martin Jones (MJ), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Parole Board and Russell A’Court (RA), CEO of the Office of the Victims Commissioner met to discuss issues of mutual concern in respect of victims and the parole process.

Pilot on re-fund of travel costs to victims who attend Parole Board oral hearings

RA reported that the Victims’ Commissioner was keen to hear how the pilot on offering victims a refund of their travel costs to oral hearings was progressing.

MJ reported that the take up rate for refunds was relatively low, but in cases where the costs caused real hardship, the offer of a refund was positively received.

The pilot was being extended for the time being and the Parole Board would report back to the VC when a long term decision was made on whether to continue the offer.

Personal letters to victims who attend oral hearings  

MJ advised that the Parole Board was continuing the practice of the Chairman or CEO sending a personal handwritten letter to victims who attended Parole Board oral hearings to read their Victim Personal Statement. The feedback from victims was very positive, even in cases where they were disappointed with the outcome.

RA advised that the VC welcomed this practice, citing it as an example of providing victims with a personalised service.

Offering victims reasons for Parole Board decisions 

When the VC spoke at the Parole Board Annual Conference in November 2016, she raised the possibility of victims being offered an abridged version of the Parole Board decision letter, which removed all personal data, but gave the victim an understanding of the Board’s rationale behind its decision. RA was keen to know how this was being progressed.

MJ responded that the idea was still under discussion, with consideration being given as to what information the abridged letter might contain. It was recognised that giving the victim an understanding of how a decision had been reached would, in many cases, assist victims in their understanding of the process.

He undertook to keep the VC updated on developments.

Non disclosure applications

RA was concerned that some applications for non-disclosure might not always fully or accurately reflect the concerns of the victim. He would be raising this with HMPPS and asking that consideration be given to sharing the non-disclosure applications with victims before they are submitted.