Role of the Board
Receipt of dossiers and timing of processing
The Parole Board has no statutory powers to consider the case of a prisoner unless the case has been referred to it by Scottish Ministers. The prisoner dossier referred to the Parole Board contains key information including a home background report, a prison social work report, a trial judge report (if available), and where appropriate psychological and/or psychiatric report, sentence management reports and prisoner misconduct reports.
Aside from recall and re-release cases the dossier is usually referred around 12-16 weeks before the Board is required to consider the case. These representations are incorporated within the dossier submitted to the Board.
The Scottish Ministers will refer for the Board's consideration all cases where there is a concern over a possible breach of licence. These are known as recall considerations. The licensee is not provided with an opportunity to make representations on the dossier that is sent to the Parole Board at this stage, as they will not be aware that they are being considered for possible recall. The Board will consider recall cases as quickly as possible following the referral from Scottish Ministers.
Determinate sentence prisoners being considered for re-release by a casework meeting of the Board will have the opportunity to make representations on the dossier sent to the Board. This dossier is sent by Scottish Ministers within two weeks of the offender being recalled to custody. The Board will then generally consider the case at the meeting following expiry of the 4 week period for representations.
Recalled life or extended sentence prisoners, whose re-release is considered by a tribunal, rather than at a Board case meeting, are also given 4 weeks to make representations to the Board.
The Board's consideration of risk and the setting of licence conditions
Life sentence prisoners may only be detained beyond the expiry of the punishment part of their sentence on the grounds that it is necessary for the protection of the public.
If an extended sentence prisoner has been recalled, the test that the Board is required to apply is that it is " no longer necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm" that the prisoner should be confined.
At casework meetings of the Board, members will consider whether the risk presented by the offender can be managed in the community. Rule 8 of the Parole Board Rules sets out the matters the Board may take into account, although the Board is not restricted to a consideration of these alone:
• the nature and circumstances of any offence of which that person has been convicted or found guilty by a court;
• the person's conduct since the date of his or her current sentence or sentences;
• the risk of that person committing any offence or causing harm to any other person if he or she were to be released on licence, remain on licence or be re-released on licence as the case may be; and
• what that person intends to do if he or she were to be released on licence, remain on licence, or be re-released on licence, as the case may be, and the likelihood of that person fulfilling those intentions.
The Board will therefore take into account a range of information in its assessment of risk. The Board is not restricted as to what information it may take into account, and whilst in practice the dossier will generally contain all the information that the Board considers it requires, it will not limit itself to that information if it considers further material is required. A case may be deferred to request further information.
There are eight "standard" conditions. These are as follows:
1. You shall report forthwith to the officer in charge of the office at the address of the relevant supervising Council;
2. You shall be under the supervision of such officer to be nominated for this purpose from time to time by the head of service with responsibility for criminal justice social work at the relevant Council;
3. You shall comply with such requirements as that officer may specify for the purposes of risk management supervision;
4. You shall inform your supervising officer immediately if you are arrested or questioned by the police;
5. You shall keep in touch with your supervising officer in accordance with that officer's instructions;
6. You shall inform your supervising officer if you change your place of residence or gain employment or change or lose your job;
7. You shall be of good behaviour and shall keep the peace; and
8. You shall not travel outside Great Britain without the prior permission of your supervising officer.
It is clearly for the supervising officer to manage the implementation of these conditions with individual licensees and a plethora of licence conditions as a risk management tool can be counter productive. The supervising officer has significant discretion in utilising the standard conditions in order to manage the offender in the community. For example "to be of good behaviour and keep the peace" may be sufficiently broad to cover a number of circumstances where the Board has been asked to set out more detailed conditions following a request from a MAPPA meeting. The Board will always look at the extent to which existing conditions can meet the request before setting additional conditions and cases should not be referred for further consideration where an existing condition, properly managed by the supervising officer can achieve the desired outcome.
If particular additional licence conditions are requested, or suggested by, for example, community based social work, an explanation is required for each condition requested or suggested and evidence provided of why existing conditions cannot be used. This is because, in accordance with Human Rights legislation the Board can only recommend the inclusion of any condition which is:
(1) in accordance with the law;
(2) has a lawful aim; and
(3) would be a proportionate means of achieving that aim.
Every condition requires to be specific (so that the offender knows exactly what he/she and others are required to do/not to do) and enforceable.
It is expected during this process that recommendations in the dossier will be informed by the results of risk assessment and supported by risk management plans which will provide interventions and supports to the offender if released into the community, and have due regard to public protection. During the period of supervision, if the nature of risk or other factors in the management of the offender change, and require a review of the licence conditions, that request must be supported by detailed justification for the change. This is for the same reasons that a justification requires to be given when licence conditions are being requested on initial release as described above. Such requests should be submitted to the Scottish Government Criminal Justice and Parole Division. They should not be submitted directly to the Parole Board, who cannot consider a case until it has been referred to them by Scottish Ministers.
Decisions of the Board and licence conditions for offenders
There is no appeal against the decisions of the Board other than judicial review, and the Board's recommendations are binding on Scottish Ministers.
If the Board recommends the release of an individual offender, the timing of that release will depend on the type of sentence the prisoner is serving, and/or the type of consideration that has been required of the Board.
In long term determinate sentence cases if the Board recommends release at first consideration, the release will either be on the offenders Parole Qualifying Date, or a forward date set by the Board, this is generally not more than 28 days beyond the PQD. If the offender is released at the second or subsequent review, then they will be released at a date set by the Board at the relevant casework meeting.
If the Board recommends parole and the PQD, or the date of release is within a month of the Board's consideration then the prisoner is advised of the decision in writing within 48 hours of their case being considered by a meeting of the Board. Prisoners are advised within a similar timeframe if their PQD is within two weeks and they are not getting parole.
If the Board has been asked to consider possible additional, or a change in, licence conditions, for example prior to a prisoner's EDL after the Board's initial consideration of the case, the notification of the Board's decision will be sent to the prisoner and to the Scottish Government Criminal Justice and Parole Division. If the prisoner is to be released within the month after the casework meeting, the notification will be sent within 48 hours of a casework meeting.
In cases where the Board is asked to consider transfer of supervision between local authorities, the decision is advised within two weeks of a casework meeting considering the case.
If the Parole Board has considered the possible recall of a prisoner and are recommending that a prisoner be recalled, then the Scottish Government Criminal Justice and Parole Division are advised within around 3 days of a casework meeting. If instead of recalling the prisoner the Board decide that a warning letter be sent, this letter will be sent from the Parole Board to the prisoner within two weeks of the case being considered by the Board. A copy of this letter is sent to the prisoner care of their supervising officer, and a copy sent to the supervising officer and to the Scottish Government Criminal Justice and Parole Division.
In re-release cases for a determinate sentence prisoner, the prisoner must be re-released immediately and the prisoner is advised within 48 hours of a casework meeting if they are to be re-released. If re-release has not been recommended then the prisoner will be advised of the decision within two weeks of the casework meeting that considered the case.