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Timeline - Parole Hearings

The last 20 years has seen a massive shift in the procedures adopted by the Parole Board when deciding whether to release prisoners on licence, and deciding whether they have been correctly recalled to custody.

The move has been from procedures where the prisoner was subject to a secretive process on the papers, with no right to disclosure and with no reasons being given to the current position, where oral hearings with a right to legal representation are the norm for lifers and recalled fixed-term prisoners, and where oral hearings are not convened, the process is an open one.

Parole Hearings
2013 Osborn & Booth v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61
The Supreme Court decides that the Parole Board is operating too restrictive a policy for deciding which cases require an oral hearing. The Board's amended guidance is here.
2013 Amended release test for determinate prisoners
The Parole Board amends its guidance following to confirm that the appropriate release test for determinate prisoners is not the risk of any reoffending but the risk of harm to the public. The guidance can be found here.
2013 Faulkner & Sturnham [2013] UKSC 23
The Supreme Court decided in Faulkner that a breach of Article 5(4) in respect of the interval between reviews is not the same as false imprisonment. Damages of £6.500 for 10 months delay in a hearing that directed release were awarded. In Sturnham, no release decision was made but damages could be obtained for frustration and delay - in this case £300 for 6 months delay. See also Betteridge v UK (2013) 57 EHRR 7.
2012 James & Others v UK (2012)
The European Court of Human Rights found that a failure to provide appropriate offending behaviour courses can create a breach of Article 5(1) of the Convention, disagreeing with the House of Lords decision.
2012 IPP sentences abolished
The IPP sentence was finally abolished by LASPO on 3 December 2012. Further amendments were made to the arrangements for the release and recall of prisoners serving determinate and extended sentences.
2009 Article 5 and determinate parole
The House of Lords decide that Article 5 does not apply to the first release of prisoners serving determinate prison sentences in the case of Black {2009] UKHL 1
2009 James & Others v SSJ [2009] UKHL 22
The House of Lords decides that the failure to provide proper sentence planning or courses to prisoners serving indterminate sentences is not a breach of Article 5.
2008 Criminal Justice & Immigration Act
Major changes to the parole scheme introduced to try and harmonise the different release schemes and to overcome the objections raised in the Stellato case above.
2007 R (Stellato) v Secretary of State [2007] UKHL 5
The courts confirm that the Secretary of State cannot make retrospective changes to statutory release schemes without express Parliamentary approval following the introduction of the CJA 2003.
2006 R (Headley & others) v SSJ 2006] UKHL 54
The House of Lords find that the parole scheme for determinate prisoners is within the ambit of Article 5, although it does not directly enagage Article 5 and that it has been applied to foregin nationals in a discriminatory manner by excluding their cases from consideration by the Parole Board.
2005 R (Smith and West) v Parole Board [2005] UKHL1
Confirms that recalled fixed-term prisoners are entitled to oral hearings when recalled to custody, not by application of Article 5 of the Convention, but on grounds of common law fairness.
2005 The Criminal Justice Act 2003
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 overhauls early release arrangements for fixed-term prisoners where offence committed on or after 4 April 2005. Release is automatic at the halfway point for most fixed-term prisoners but licences last for the whole of the sentence.
2004 Parole Board Rules
The most recent version of the Parole Board Rules issued.
2003 R (Sim) v Parole Board [2003]
Confirms that for extended sentence prisoners (fixed-term prisoners with an extra licence period imposed by the court) Article 5 is engaged if recalled during the extended licence period and so an oral hearing is required.
2003 The Criminal Justice Act 2003
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 harmonises release procedures for all lifers.
2002 Stafford v UK [2002] 35 EHRR 32
The European Court overturns Wynne and accepts that the reality of the mandatory life sentence is that detention after tariff expiry is only on dangerousness grounds, and therefore Article 5(4) is applicable to reviews by the Board as with all other lifers.
2002 R (Noorkoiv) v Home Secretary [2002] EWCA Civ 770
Confirms that a lifer's oral hearing must be listed so that release where appropriate can be exactly on the date of tariff expiry.
2001 R v Offen [2001] 1 WLR 253
The Court of Appeal confirms that the automatic (“two strikes”) sentence should only be imposed where the offender is assessed as dangerous.
1996 Hussain and Singh v UK [1996] 22 EHRR 1
Decides that those who commit murder when under 18 (“HMP lifers”) should also only be detained after tariff expiry on grounds of dangerousness and so they are also entitled to Article 5(4) compliant reviews on tariff expiry and recall. Hussain v UK 1996
Singh v UK 1996
1994 Wynne v UK [1994] 19 EHRR 333
The Strasbourg court accepts the UK government’s analysis of the mandatory life sentence, as it is a sentence of lifelong punitive detention, Article 5(4) is not engaged when such lifers are recalled.
1992 The Criminal Justice Act 1991
The Criminal Justice Act 1991 comes into force completely overhauling release processes for fixed-term prisoners – open reporting for reviews is instituted in light of the recommendations of the Carlisle Committee and judicial concern. The Act also brings in oral hearings for discretionary lifers and so marks the first formal divergence in the way different kinds of lifer are treated.
1991 R v Parole Board ex parte Bradley [1991] 1 WLR 134
States that the level of risk required to justify detention of discretionary lifer after the tariff period is only where the risk is “substantial”.
1991 Thynne Wilson and Gunnell v UK [1991] 13 EHRR 666
The European Court of Human Rights confirms that Article 5(4) is engaged when discretionary lifers are recalled. The Board must act like a court when making such decisions and have the power to direct release. Thynne Wilson and Gunnell v UK 1991
1991 Angela Rumbold statement
Angela Rumbold, Minister of State, issues statement that where the conviction is for murder, and the life sentence is mandatory, the life sentence is one of punishment for life, despite the 1983 statement.
1989 R v Home Secretary ex parte Benson [1989] COD 329
Confirms that, as dangerousness is the test for imposing discretionary life sentences, continued dangerousness after expiry of the tariff is the test for release.
1988 Carlisle Committee reports on parole system
Recommends overhaul for fixed-term sentences involving automatic release for those serving under 4 years, and release only on a recommendation of the Board for those serving 4 years or more.
1983 Explanation of the 'tariff'
Home Secretary Leon Brittan issues policy explaining publicly for the first time that life sentences are divided into two – the period to be served as punishment (the 'tariff'), after which the lifer can only be detained if deemed a risk to the public.
1967 The Criminal Justice Act 1967
The Criminal Justice Act 1967 creates Parole Board and establishes a system of early release for fixed-term prisoners. The Board’s role in recommending release for all prisoners is wholly advisory.
1965 The death penalty abolished
The release of life sentenced prisoners is wholly at the discretion of the Home Secretary
In the timeline an orange heading indicates a contribution from Bhatt Murphy lawyers.