DEDICATED TO COVERING THE DECISION-MAKING POWERS AND PROCEDURES OF THE PAROLE BOARD
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
For those concerned with the civil liberties of prisoners, or indeed for anyone concerned with the work of the Parole Board, this book from the Legal Action Group is essential reading. Apparently, and as far as we know, it's the only book dedicated to covering the decision making powers and procedures of the Parole Board for England and Wales.
Hamish Arnott & Simon Creighton, in their book, are carrying on the admirable tradition of LAG publications, and this second edition of `Parole Board Hearings: law and practice' is notable for its high standards of rigorous research and ease of use in 14 chapters and 7 appendices.
It's a readable, practical guide to such issues as representation, challenging decisions, assessments of risk, licences, recall and remedies, hearing procedure, and life sentence review.
The concept of a parole board is based on the principle, as expressed in the book's introductory section, that `all sentences of imprisonment, save for those few cases where a whole life order is made, include a possibility of early release'.
The book then refers to prison overcrowding which has led to the vast majority of those serving normal determinate sentences being automatically released on licence, usually halfway through the sentence. However - and this is the aspect not fully understood by the public - these mechanisms of release do not involve the Parole Board.
Due to various recent legislative interventions and changes, the Board's role is now focused on `the release of prisoners who may pose a risk of committing offences of serious harm, most notably those serving life or indeterminate sentences.'
The authors cite the current reality of over 12,000 prisoners serving indeterminate and life sentences in England and Wales - a figure higher than the rest of Western Europe combined.' The time has come, declare the authors for `some genuine "blue sky" thinking about the future of the Boar'. And it's also time for the scrapping of the concept of the `indeterminate' sentence which remains a most unsatisfactory form of sentence, for the practical nonsense that it is serving no useful purpose whatsoever.
As the future of the Board will now being debated with an incoming government in 2010, the book's publication as at December 2009 is indeed timely. David Latham, Chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales says that the new edition provides perhaps the fullest description of the Board's present position in the criminal justice system and the way in which it carries out its functions.... and it establishes a secure foundation from which the debate as to its future can be carried forward.
Since the first edition was published, significant developments have occurred in the parole review process. New material in this updated edition therefore includes the following:
* The Parole Board (Amendment) Rules 2009 with commentary on the implications of discretionary hearings for IPP prisoners
* Analysis of the House of Lords decision in James on Article 5 and delays
* The new procedures of victims' attendance at parole hearings
* Coverage of the proposed changes to the public funding of parole cases
Lawyers, advisers, prisoners and their families, indeed all those working with and for the prison and probation services and related bodies will welcome the clarity of this thoroughly researched, fully updated guide. It is a statement of this difficult and complex subject as the only dedicated authority of its kind on parole board powers and procedures, and we are all the better for it.