Parole reform in Scotland: analysis of consultation responses

Collated and analysed responses to the public consultation on parole reform in support of the Vision for Justice in Scotland.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 The proposals in the consultation support the 'Vision for Justice in Scotland' which is safe, just and resilient. The proposals were developed as part of the Governance and Legislation Project in the Scottish Government's Parole Reform Programme in order to partially deliver the following manifesto commitment:-

"We will improve the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have committed offences and complete the implementation of the parole reform project to modernise and improve support for the vital work of the Parole Board."

1.2 The Scottish Government's Parole Reform Programme aims to clarify the role and status of the Parole Board, simplify and modernise processes and support consistency of approach. Some of these changes can be addressed administratively through the review of existing processes and by better collaborative working with other bodies, but some of the proposed improvements require legislative change.

1.3 On 21 July 2017, the Scottish Government published a consultation on Parole Reform in Scotland. This consultation sought views within six distinct areas which covered proposals for both primary and secondary legislation. The consultation closed on 13 October 2017. A total of 23 responses were received comprising of 20 from organisations and three from individuals. Organisations representing the public, local authorities and the third sector provided 18 of the organisational responses with each of these sectors providing six responses. See table below:-

Category of respondent No. of respondents % of all respondents*
Public Sector 6 organisations 26
Local Authorities ( LA) 6 26
Third Sector (3 rd) 6 organisations 26
Individuals 3 13
Judiciary 1 group 4
Legal 1 organisation 4

* Percentages do not total 100 exactly due to rounding

1.4 The consultation consisted of 21 closed questions with a follow-up comments section. When reporting the number of responses/comments received those who stated "no comment" have not been included. See Annex A for overall breakdown of closed questions and respondents.

1.5 There was no single question to which all 23 respondents answered. There were five questions to which every category of respondent answered. Two third sector organisations responded by letter. The content of their letters were considered as a response to the final question (Question 22 (Q22)). This executive summary focuses on the key findings in relation to proposals for legislative change.

1.6 Across every category of respondent, there was a varying degree of understanding around the parole process. It was clear however from the comments that more clarity would be welcomed in relation to certain aspects of the Board's activities including the role of the Scottish Ministers, the role of the Parole Board, independence and the accountability and governance structure of the Parole Board.

1.7 Across every category of respondent there was agreement that the prescribed membership of the Parole Board should be reviewed.

1.8 All who responded agreed that the Scottish Ministers should be removed from the decision to release or not release for those prisoners liable to removal from the United Kingdom in deportation cases. The only category of respondent not to answer this question was the judiciary.

1.9 All who responded agreed that clarification was required to reinforce that the decisions of the Parole Board (other than in compassionate release cases) are binding on the Scottish Ministers. The only category of respondent not to answer this question was the judiciary.

1.10 Across the categories who responded there was an agreement that the release of a prisoner whose licence has been revoked should be as soon as practically possible (without undue delay). This would ensure equal treatment as in other cases involving the Parole Board. The current legislation terminology for this type of prisoner is different as it stipulates "immediate" release. All those who come before the Parole Board and are released following consideration are done so without undue delay. This particular process is one on which some public sector, local authorities and third sector organisations would benefit from clearer guidance and information as there was a misunderstanding in some of these categories as to how the actual process is dealt with by the Board. The only category of respondent not to answer this question was the judiciary.

1.11 Across every category of respondent there was agreement that tests for all release, release following recall, and recall considerations should be made clear. It was recognised that a single universal test may not be the most appropriate given the higher risk prisoner categories and that a balance must be struck in relation to risk and public safety. Again clarification and guidance on how the Parole Board approach these considerations was welcomed. Whilst the legal respondent was the only organisation who answered no, this was in respect of a single universal test, and application of different tests based on risk were not ruled out.

1.12 Across the categories who responded there was agreement that, following their initial consideration, life sentence prisoners and prisoners subject to an Order of Lifelong Restriction ( OLR) should then be considered every two years. The only category of respondent not to answer this question was the judiciary. The follow-up question which sought an annual review period for all other prisoner categories was also agreed across the categories who responded. Again the only category who did not respond to the follow-up question was the judiciary.

1.13 Across the categories who responded there was agreement that in cases where an individual had breached their licence whilst in the community, the relevant organisations should submit a report directly to the Parole Board. This included social work, police and the NHS. These would be reports in relation to consideration by the Parole Board of revocation of licence and return to custody, and the subsequent release following return to custody consideration. The only category who did not respond was the judiciary.

1.14 In terms of potential impacts (positive or negative) within these proposals it was widely recognised that any changes should take into account the needs of the most vulnerable individuals including those who are detained in a secure hospital as well as children and young people detained in secure accommodation.


1.15 The responses to this public consultation were low but they did represent a cross-section of organisations. The limited response numbers demonstrate that these are technical changes. With the exception of Q.2 (current terms for appointment and reappointment being fit for purpose) and Q.20 (oral hearings and tribunal considerations to mirror casework) there were no areas where responses indicated a clear disagreement with proposals as presented.


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