In an urgent judgment handed down this week, the High Court has granted interim relief to a Claimant waiting for his parole case to be heard, disapplying the Secretary of State for Justice’s new parole guidance for the first time since its introduction in late July.
Handed down in R (Bailey) v SSJ  EWHC 2125 (Admin), the decision was made to ensure the Parole Board will receive all the evidence it chooses to when delivering its verdict on the Claimant’s future.
In July, the Secretary of State for Justice introduced changes to the Parole Board Rules along with some separate guidance which sought to dictate what and how probation officers and prison system psychologists could answer questions of the Parole Board at a hearing. As a result of this landmark verdict, however, this guidance is no longer applied.
The ruling upholds the Claimant’s right to a fair and impartial hearing, ensuring witnesses will not be prevented from giving their full evidence and answering all questions put to them.
Philip Rule of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, acted on behalf of the Claimant.
A commentator on the case says: “The decision to grant relief is a welcome one. We hope that all parole cases can be considered fully with all evidence available, unhindered by political influence, so that a fair judgment can be made. It is vital that all those detained for assessment of risk are able to access a fair decision on their future, and if they are evidenced to have been rehabilitated, there shouldn’t be any blocking of evidence from policies like these that could prevent them receiving justice.
“At the same time, it is in the interests of the public that the probation service is able to give all its evidence and provide a negative recommendation for those still a risk, if they were released.”
Also detailed in the Justice Secretary’s Parole Board Rules, expert report writers have been prevented from providing recommendations for such hearings. A decision to overturn this rule awaits final determination of the claim.
The National Association of Probation Officers awaits an indication from the Ministry of Justice as to what this precedent will mean for the future of the guidance and rules whilst there are ongoing parole hearings taking place, and until a final court judgment in this case. It seems likely that this first ruling will set the same precedent to ensure that parole hearings have all the relevant evidence to make fair decisions, unhindered in any way by.
Reporters may wish to contact the General Secretary of NAPO for comment; and the Ministry of Justice to explain what it proposes to do with its instructions to probation staff attending all the parole hearings currently taking place.
The judgment on interim relief can be found here.
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