Transforming parole in Scotland: consultation

Consultation on proposals to improve the openess and transparency of parole and strengthen the victim's voice in the parole process.

4. Ensuring Transparency And Improving Support For Decision-Making

Ensuring Transparency

What do we want to see?

4.1 We believe the parole process should be more open and transparent but this is not without difficulty. There is a delicate and important balance to be struck in ensuring all those with an interest in the decision receive the information they need, whilst also protecting their safety and security. We must also ensure that the independence of the Parole Board is maintained and protected.

4.2 This needs careful consideration, but we believe that implementing change, which will make the Parole Board and parole processes more open, will increase public confidence in the system.

What happens now?

4.3 Currently, the Parole Board's decision is informed by the evidence set out in a dossier provided to them by SPS and the representations by or on behalf of the prisoner or any persons attending the hearing, where applicable. Once they have considered all the evidence before them, the Parole Board will make a decision in private and relay that decision to the prisoner.

4.4 In Scotland, rule 9 of the 2001 Rules does not allow disclosure of information given to the Parole Board about a case to any person not involved in the proceedings, or to the public. Rule 9 does allow an exception to this where the Chair of the Parole Board or the Chair of the Tribunal directs otherwise or in relation to any court proceedings. Such directions have been used previously to provide victims with a summary of reasons for a decision, but they are not asked for or given often.

4.5 Following the case of R. ex parte DSD and NBV and others versus The Parole Board of England and Wales and others [2018] (otherwise known as the Worboys case)[6], the rule in England (Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules 2016 which absolutely barred any disclosure) was challenged in the High Court of Justice and was subsequently changed[7].

4.6 Rule 25 of the Parole Board Rules 2016 now requires the Parole Board for England and Wales to provide decision summaries to victims who request it (unless it is considered that exceptional circumstances exist against the disclosure of such a summary) and to third parties who request one (e.g. public / media), where it is considered that disclosure is justified and in the interests of open justice.

Options for Change

4.7 We would like to develop mechanisms which provide victims and their families with information on parole decisions relating to their case, and also provide the public with more information on how the Parole Board reach their decisions. These mechanisms would also need to take account of the need to protect the safety of the prisoner and their ability to reintegrate successfully in their local community, once the Parole Board have deemed them to be suitable for release. We will therefore also need to carefully consider the circumstances in which information should not be released to the victim or family, or to the wider public.

4.8 The Parole Board's role is not well understood and we recognise that a more transparent system would support greater public confidence in the process.

4.9 In the interests of openness and transparency, we could consider extending the option to attend a parole hearing to others, such as the media or general public. Other factors would need to be considered if doing so, such as prison accommodation, security, and imposition on Parole Board members, SPS and social work staff.

Questions on Ensuring Transparency

Question 6: Should others be routinely entitled to attend parole hearings?

Yes / No

If Yes, who should be able to attend, in what circumstances and for what part of the proceedings? If No, why not?

Question 7: Should information be routinely shared with others?

Yes / No

If Yes, what level of information should be shared or what more could be done?

If No, why not?

Question 8: Do you feel that some information regarding parole decisions should be published proactively?

Yes / No

If Yes, what level of information do you feel should be published? If No, why not?

Question 9: Do you think the work of the Parole Board is sufficiently visible?

Yes / No

If Yes, why do you think that? If No, what more could be done?

Improving Support for Decision Making

What do we want to see?

4.10 We want to make sure that the Parole Board has access to the most robust evidence possible to help inform their decisions. We also want to ensure that the organisations supporting the development of the parole dossier have access to the information they need, so that the Parole Board has this information in time for its consideration of the case to prevent avoidable delays in the system.

What happens now?

4.11 Currently the Parole Board primarily relies on the parole dossier to provide sufficient information to inform its decisions.

4.12 Where more detailed information is required but is missing or inadequate in the dossier, the Parole Board may have to seek further information from different sources. This process can be time-consuming and may lead to delays in decisions being reached.

Options for Change

4.13 We want to make sure that the Parole Board and the organisations supporting them have access to all the information they need to make robust and evidence-based decisions. We also want to make sure this process is as streamlined as possible to prevent delays in the process.

4.14 We would welcome views on whether the role of the Parole Board and other organisations involved in compiling information for the parole dossier could be widened. This might, for example, entail investigating and collating information from other bodies such as the NHS, the Crown or the police.

Questions on Improving Support for Decision-Making

Question 10: Do you think that consideration should be given to widening the information available to the Parole Board by establishing a function to investigate and collate information from other bodies?

Yes / No

If Yes, who should provide that function and in what circumstances? If No, what other options are there to improve information gathering?


Email: Sandra Wallace

Back to top