Raab launches recruitment drive to toughen parole scrutiny with more ex-police officers and detectives

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Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

A national recruitment campaign launched this week will see the number of Parole Board panellists from policing backgrounds almost double, from 26 to 51.

Panellists are responsible for making finely balanced risk assessments when deciding whether to release prisoners on life and other indeterminate sentences once they’ve served their minimum term.

Recruiting 25 more Parole Board panellists will double the number who have first-hand policing experience of managing serious offenders and the risk they pose – placing a greater focus on public protection in parole hearings.

The government will also legislate to make sure parole reviews of ‘top-tier’ cases will involve members with policing backgrounds. This category includes the most dangerous offenders convicted of murder, rape, causing or allowing the death of a child and terrorist offences.

Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, said:

The public want to know that parole decisions are being made by those with good insight into offenders’ behaviour like police officers and detectives.

Their first-hand experience and understanding of risk will give parole boards an even greater focus on public protection and make our streets safer.

Since the root and branch reforms of the parole process were announced last year, the government has already introduced a raft of changes to toughen up the parole system and restore public confidence.

This includes tightening up the rules around open prison moves so all indeterminate sentence offenders – those who have committed the most serious crimes, including murder and rape – face much stricter criteria to move from closed to open prison.

Further reforms, including a tougher release test for parole prisoners and new powers for the Justice Secretary to block the release of dangerous offenders, are also set to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

New panellists are expected to be in place before the end of the year and will at least double the proportion of Parole Board members from policing backgrounds from 8% to 16%.

Currently, parole hearings are conducted by a panel of one to three members who come from a variety of backgrounds, including judges and psychiatrists. The panel considers a wide range of evidence and hears from the professionals working with a prisoner, such as probation officers or prison psychologists, and listens to victims about the impact the crime had on their lives.

In order to direct release, the panel must be satisfied that it is no longer necessary for an offender to be in prison in the interest of public protection. In practice this means ensuring that any risk presented by a prisoner can be safely managed in the community.

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