The Parole Board has a number of statutory functions, largely set out under the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 and the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Act 2005.
The Board only grants release in cases where the level and nature of risk is deemed to be manageable, this decision is informed by the evaluation of risk assessments.
The type of sentence imposed will determine both at which point in the sentence the Parole Board will consider release and under what procedures the review will take place.
Short term determinate sentence prisoners
For offenders sentenced to a determinate sentence of less than 4 years, the Parole Board has no role in determining whether or not individuals are released into the community and they will be unconditionally released at the half way point. Short term sex offenders ( STSO) are now released on licence, the conditions of which are set by Scottish Ministers, therefore the Board's only involvement in STSO cases is in consideration of the offender's case for recall or re-release.
Long term determinate sentence prisoners
For offenders sentenced to determinate sentences of four years or more, the Parole Board is invited to recommend to Scottish Ministers whether the individual offender should be released on licence at the half way point of their sentence (the Parole Qualifying Date). The Board's recommendation is binding on Scottish Ministers. If early release is not recommended then the Board will reconsider the offender's case within 16 months of the previous consideration until the offender reaches their Earliest Date of Liberation (the two thirds point of their sentence or 6 months before the expiry of the sentence depending on when they were sentenced) at which point the Scottish Ministers are statutorily required to release the prisoner into the community on licence.
The Board will set the licence conditions for all long term determinate sentence prisoners. In practice if there is 16 months or less to go between the Board's most recent consideration of a case and the Earliest Date of Liberation (EDL), the Board can set these licence conditions in advance, although this does not preclude a further referral nearer to the EDL if Scottish Ministers consider that there are reasons why the licence conditions may need to be changed - although it is important to note that the offender would be provided with 4 weeks to make representations on such proposed change. Therefore if a request to change conditions is made very close to an offenders EDL the change may not be possible prior to the EDL. Requests to change licence conditions can be made at any point over the course of the licence period. Such requests are considered at Board meetings.
The Parole Board will deal with two types of extended sentence prisoners. The first is where a short term custodial part is imposed, but when taken with the extension period the aggregate sentence is four years or more. This type of case will be referred to the Board for consideration of recommending licence conditions only.
If the custodial part is 4 years or more, the Board would deal with them as for long term determinate sentence prisoners, however if they are not released on parole they will be released at the two thirds point of their sentence or at the end of the custodial part of the sentence depending on when they were sentenced. All extended sentence prisoners released since 8 February 2006 are released on licence. This means that the offender is liable to be recalled to custody at any point after release and before the end of the extension part if there is evidence that their risk becomes too great and is not manageable in the community. Consideration for release on parole is dealt with at casework meetings of the Board.
Life sentence prisoners
Life sentence prisoners are reviewed for possible release on life licence by the Parole Board, sitting as a Life Prisoner Tribunal. This is an oral hearing chaired by a legally qualified member of the Board and two other Board members. The prisoner and, usually, their legal representative will attend along with a senior prison officer who will provide information on the prisoners management plan. A Representative of Scottish Ministers may attend but this is unusual.
It is for the Board to determine if the prisoner should continue to be confined for the protection of the public. If release on life licence is not directed then the prisoner is required, by law, to have a further review not more than 2 years beyond the current review. The tribunal will set the date of the further review.
Orders for Lifelong Restriction
The release arrangements for OLR prisoners are the same as life sentence prisoners which is that they are referred to the Board for consideration on the expiry of the punishment part of their sentence. The Board is required to have regard to the Risk Management Plan which has been approved by the Risk Management Authority in reaching its decision as to whether the degree of risk posed is such that the prisoner can be returned to the community under licence conditions.
Recall of prisoners for breach of licence
Where an offender has been released on licence and a licence condition is breached they may be liable to be recalled to custody by Scottish Ministers or the Parole Board. Following a referral by Scottish Ministers, the Board is required to consider the recall to custody of the following sentence types:-
• short term sex offenders;
• all prisoners subject to an extended sentence;
• long term sentence prisoners; and
• prisoners released on life licence.
The offender will not be advised when the Board is considering their possible recall.
The case will be considered at a casework meeting of the board.
Other post release considerations
Whilst the Board will recommend the licence conditions to be set prior to the release of prisoners, there are some circumstances in which the Board might be asked by Scottish Ministers following a request from a supervising officer to change the licence conditions once the prisoner is on licence in the community. This might include transfer of supervision, the termination of the supervision element, the addition of a condition or the removal of a condition. The offender would be provided with 4 weeks to make representations on the proposed changes and the Board would then consider the request at a casework meeting.
Re-release following re-call
For those types of case where the Board may consider recall, they will also be required to consider the offender's subsequent re-release. The prisoner will be given the opportunity to make representations on the reasons given for their recall and the Board will be required to determine if they should remain in custody.
The way in which the Board deals with the cases depends on the sentence type.
For re-release of STSO or long term determinate sentence prisoners, the Board will consider these cases at a casework meeting. The Board is required to consider if it is in the interests of fairness that an oral hearing (not a tribunal) be held. A different panel of the Board considers re-release from those that considered an individual's recall to ensure fairness.
For re-release of extended sentence (who are in the extension part of their sentence) and life prisoners, a Tribunal of the Board is required to be held. This provides for the prisoner and his legal representative to present his case to the Board orally. Scottish Ministers may, exceptionally, also be represented.
Children and young persons
Statute requires that all children and young people (C & YP) sentenced to detention under Section 208 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1995 must be treated in the same way as long-term adults. This means that the Board is responsible for considering the early release of C & YP cases sentenced to four years or more detention, and to setting licence conditions for all C & YP cases sentenced to less than 4 years detention. All C & YP cases are liable to be recalled to custody in the same way as long-term adults.