Annex B: Summary of actions to be taken
Strengthening the voice of victims in the parole process
Question 1: Do you think victims and their families should have a greater voice in the parole process?
Produce an information booklet in an easy read format to help victims and/or families understand the parole process.
Explore a means by which victims and/or families (if they wish to do so) can make representations to the Parole Board member(s) who will hear their case. This may require amendment to primary legislation.
Allow prisoners families (if they wish to do so) to make representations to the Parole Board regarding the impact of the decision on the prisoner's family.
Provide a specific point of contact within Parole Scotland [a victim liaison officer], so that victims can access appropriate information (within the boundaries of Data Protection legislation) should they require to do so. This may include what can be expected from the parole process; key dates for submitting representations; or clarity on how they wish to be informed about the parole decision.
Question 2: Do you think victims and their families should be entitled to attend parole hearings in person?
Explore a means by which arrangements can be made to allow a victim and/or family member to attend a parole hearing in person (if they wish to do so). This could allow them to ask any questions about procedural matters. In most cases we envisage this would happen at the beginning of the hearing without the prisoner being present. This would avoid any conflict or participation issues and be less traumatising for the victim.
This could also be achieved by allowing victims to observe the hearing via video conferencing (if available) which could allow the sound to be muted when confidential matters were being discussed and provide some distance between the prisoner and the victim or family member.
In addition, to avoid re-traumatising victims by asking them to submit their representations at subsequent hearings (where the prisoner has not been released), we could arrange that original victim statements may be taken into account at every review hearing, rather than seeking new statements for each hearing - if that is something the victim wishes to do.
Question 3: Do you think there should be clear criteria on the kinds of information the Parole Board should consider in relation to the safety and welfare of victims and their families?
Work with the Parole Board to produce guidelines on the type of criteria they should take into account when considering the safety and welfare of the victims and their families. This criterion should also take into account the prisoner's safety and the safety of the prisoner's family.
Incorporate specific criteria into the Parole Board rules of procedure relating to certain matters that may be taken into account by them around the safety and welfare of victims and their families.
Question 4: Do you think more could be done to strengthen the Parole Board's current use of licence conditions (including conditions to exclude individuals from certain areas, or from certain individuals)?
We will work with the Parole Board to explore the potential for making greater use of the existing (radio frequency) electronic monitoring capabilities for monitoring exclusion zones (or inclusion zones) within licence conditions.
We will work with the Parole Board to explore the potential for a pilot study using GPS technology for prisoners released on parole licence, where a relevant licence condition has stipulated.
Question 5: Do you think victims and their families should receive information on the reasons for the Parole Board's decisions in their case?
Working with the Information Commissioner and the Parole Board set out a procedure for publishing information including the type of information that may be published, the format/style of publication and the means by which it will be published, taking into account rights and obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the prisoner's rights under ECHR.
Ensuring transparency and improving support for decision-making
Question 6: Should 'others' be routinely entitled to attend parole hearings?
Having considered all of the responses in some detail the Scottish Government do not think there is a requirement to allow 'others' to routinely attend parole tribunals.
There is however scope to specifically allow professional observers to attend oral hearings in order to assist with their personal development.
Question 7: Should information be routinely shared with others?
The Scottish Government believe that information should only be shared where there is a statutory role for an individual or organisation and/or where there is a legal basis for data to be shared. This should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, there are no plans to share information more widely than is indicated elsewhere in this report.
However, we will recommend to the Parole Board that an overview of decisions is produced annually and published on the Parole Board website.
Question 8: Do you feel that some information regarding parole decisions should be published proactively?
Recommend to the Parole Board that they include in their annual report anonymised case studies, including redacted summaries of significant decisions and reasons for them.
In addition, the report should include reasons why people are being recalled to prison. This may help identify recurring themes where action may be needed to avoid licence breaches or to identify where there are gaps in service provision.
Question 9: Do you think the work of the Parole Board is sufficiently visible?
Work with the Parole Board to raise its profile amongst professionals, victims/victim's families, prisoners/prisoner's families to ensure that the role of the Board and its processes are fully understood.
We will recommend to the Parole Board that they produce and publish a communication strategy.
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?
The Scottish Government considers that the Parole Board's role should not be widened to include investigations. It is also considered that the information that is currently available through the dossier is sufficient to ensure that the risk a person poses can be determined. The Parole Board also already has the ability to call on any additional information that they require to reach a decision.
We will recommend to the Parole Board that they publish the types of information they take into account when making a decision to release and the reasons they require such information.
Information for prisoners on the parole process
Question 11: Do you think that prisoners currently receive the information they need to enable them to participate in the parole process?
Produce an information booklet, in an easy to read format, to be included in the dossier of information given to the prisoner in timely preparation for their parole hearing.
Ensure that licence conditions are fully explained to prisoners before they are released into the community and that they also understand the consequences of breaching the conditions.
We will consider making appointments under section 21, of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993, which allows for Parole Advisers to give advice to prisoners or former prisoners, who wish to make representations to the Scottish Ministers or to the Parole Board relating to their release on licence or their recall to prison. In terms of vulnerable prisoners such as those with mental health problems, Parole Advisers with particular experience in that area, could provide valuable input to assist their understanding.
Question 12: Do you think that more could be done to make sure that prisoners understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching them?
Explore with the SPS and the Parole Board a means of ensuring that prisoners fully understand their licence conditions and agree who should be responsible for providing advice and assistance to them. This could be a possible role for Parole Advisers discussed above.
Supervision, Review and Recall
Question 13: Is there a requirement for an additional review process (at least initially)?
In the case of anyone on a parole or non-parole licence we consider options for an early review to be carried out 4 - 6 weeks after release on parole licence or within a time period deemed appropriate. This review will provide the opportunity to iron out any problems and ensure compliance with licence conditions is fully understood and being adhered to. Provision will be made to allow for a decision not to carry out a review if it is felt unnecessary or under/within specified circumstances. This aim of such a review is to address the number of people being recalled to custody shortly after release. Before implementing this action the process and timescales for review will be developed in conjunction with Criminal Justice Social Work.
Question 14: In relation to revocation of licence and recall to custody. Do you consider social workers should be able to refer directly to the Parole Board?
Arrange information sharing workshops for partner agencies and appropriate individuals, so that the process for breach of licence and recall to custody can be better understood.
The Scottish Government believes that the trust that has built up between the person under supervision and the supervising officer may be lost if there was the ability for them to recall people directly. Clients may not be so forthcoming with information going forward if there was a fear of being recalled to prison. We therefore consider that the current arrangements for breach and recall have progressed significantly and are therefore sufficient for purpose. However, we do consider there would be merit in hosting information workshops so as people better understand the process.
Independence and Governance
Question 15: Do you agree that a transfer to the Scottish Tribunals would enhance the independence of the Parole Board?
Undertake a specific consultation to seek views on transferring the Parole Board for Scotland to the Scottish Tribunals. The consultation will explain more clearly the purpose of any transfer and make clear the advantages or disadvantages to a transfer taking place.
Question 16: A review and appeal are available in the Scottish Tribunals. Do you consider these processes should be available for the Parole Board?
As part of the rewrite of the Parole Board rules we will set out a formal review process. This action will make it clear what the process is to seek a review, what the criteria is, the timescales for an application and what the grounds for review are.
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