VC’s response to MoJ review of the law, policy and procedure relating to Parole Board decisions

On Saturday 28 April the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published the findings from the Secretary of State’s review of parole processes. The review report can be found here. The review sought to look at the law, policy and procedure relating to Parole Board decisions.

The Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, was asked to undertake the engagement with victims of crime for this review. The Victims’ Commissioner presented the findings of her engagement to the Secretary of State for Justice. A summary of these findings can be found in Annex A of the review report.

Baroness Newlove’s response to the publication of the review report is copied below.

“I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to repeal the privacy requirement relating to parole decisions. My victim engagement exercise clearly evidenced that victims want to know how and why decisions are taken. I believe that transparency will eventually enhance victim confidence in the parole process and this must be a positive development.

Like most people I was angered and frustrated that victims in the Worboys case had to crowd fund to challenge the previous Parole Board decision. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to set up a reconsideration mechanism, which will be overseen by a judge, thereby giving a means of challenge other than a full judicial review.  Although the details have yet to be finalised, this is a most positive and welcome development. I do have one concern. I know that the parole process causes victims anxiety. It is already a lengthy process. It is likely that many applications for re-consideration will be made by offenders, thereby extending the period of uncertainty for even longer.  I will therefore be pressing the Government to ensure that the re-consideration mechanism is handled swiftly.

I welcome the requirement on the Parole Board to provide reasons when it rejects or amends requests by victims for licence conditions.

I am pleased to see that the changes will be made to the Victim Contact Scheme to ensure that discretionary access can be applied more widely.  The Worboys case demonstrated very clearly the distress and frustration felt by many of his victims who were not informed of the release decision other than through the media.  We must work to ensure this never happens again.

I remain of the view that the Victim Contact Scheme must be more than a transactional service. It must be seen as integral to providing victims with the support they need to cope and recover.  I will work with the Government when developing its “National Victims Strategy” to ensure that the changes in the scheme deliver this much needed support and care.”