Case for reforming parole system ‘clear and made out’ – Raab

The proposed reforms could see ministers override the Parole Board when it comes to the release of dangerous criminals from jail.

30 March 2022

The Justice Secretary has vowed to “enforce public safety” as he set out plans to overhaul the parole system.

Dominic Raab said the case for reform of the process is “clear and made out” as he proposed to take back powers so ministers could block dangerous criminals being freed from jail.

The shake-up comes after public outcry at the decision to release double child killer Colin Pitchfork from jail and the London taxi driver rapist John Worboys.

The release of Worboys was later formally overturned after the case was examined by a new panel, while Pitchfork was recalled to prison for a breach of licence conditions in November.

Mr Raab also said on Wednesday that he plans to appeal against the Parole Board decision which recommends the mother of Baby P, who died after months of abuse, should be freed from jail.

Setting out his review of the parole system, Mr Raab told MPs: “Our reforms will ensure that those offenders who present the highest risk to public safety are reviewed more rigorously with additional ministerial oversight.

“Protecting the public is the Government’s top priority. The proposals in this review will enforce public safety.”

HMP Five Wells
Dominic Raab with a prison officer at the opening of HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough (Joe Giddens/PA)

He added: “Following the review we have conducted and published today, I believe the case for reform is clear and made out.”

Mr Raab said he believed the “focus in this critical decision-making has become adrift from its original moorings”, adding: “So this Government will anchor Parole Board decision-making back to the cardinal principle of public protection.

“When it comes to assessing the risk to victims and public safety, we will introduce a precautionary principle to reinforce public confidence in the system and in cases which involve those who have committed the most serious crimes, we will introduce a ministerial check on release decisions exercised by the secretary of state for justice.

“The package of reforms published today will strengthen the focus on public protection at every stage.”

Colin Pitchfork release
Double child killer Colin Pitchfork (PA)

Offenders who are subject to life sentences, indeterminate sentences for public protection, extended sentences and certain recall cases are all subject to the parole process, meaning their release must be directed by the Parole Board.

The proposed reforms could see ministers override the Parole Board when it comes to the release of dangerous criminals from jail, with an aim to focus on protecting the public rather than the rights of offenders.

This could include cases involving murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Victims are also expected to be given the right to attend parole hearings in full for the first time, in a nod to the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto.

The Parole Board will now be required to take into account submissions made by victims and they will be allowed to ask questions.

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