Strengthening victims’ voices in parole hearings
Consultation on improving openness and transparency of parole.
Victims will have greater involvement in the parole process and will be able to find out more about parole decisions, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has pledged.
The proposals, which have been informed by the experiences of victims and families in Scotland’s criminal justice process, are included in a consultation on parole launched today.
The consultation proposes that victims and their families should be given information on the parole process at the earliest opportunity and that they should be able to make representations to the parole board.
It also seeks a broad range of views on: increased transparency about decisions; streamlining the process by which the Parole Board receive information needed to make decisions; changes to the supervision and recall of individuals; whether greater consideration of exclusion zones is required, where parolees are restricted from entering certain areas or approaching named individuals; and proposals to strengthen the independence, and governance and accountability arrangements of the Parole Board for Scotland.
Mr Yousaf said:
"As Justice Secretary I have listened to the experiences of victims and their families, and this has only reinforced my conviction that victims’ needs must be at the centre of the criminal justice system. Importantly, that includes ensuring they have better information, increased involvement and greater support ahead of prison release decisions.
“Parole Board for Scotland members do a difficult and complex job which requires careful judgement and expertise in assessing risk. By making improvements such as giving victims the opportunity to make representations to the parole board and ensuring openness and transparency, I believe we can strengthen public confidence in an already fair and robust system which recognises the need to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said:
“The time is right to make victim-centred changes to the parole process in Scotland. It is vitally important that victims and their families feel safe and secure. Parole processes are an essential element to achieving this and I hope that a wide range of people, including victims and their families, respond to this consultation so their views can help shape the future of our parole system.”
The consultation on Transforming Parole in Scotland is open until 27 March 2019.
The Parole Board for Scotland aims to protect the public by considering if a prisoner can be released into the community on licence. The Parole Board will consider any licence conditions that should be imposed on a person on their release into the community, to minimise risk.
The Parole Board undertakes risk assessments which are evidence-based, rigorous, fair and timely, and which can contribute to the rehabilitation of prisoners and ultimately reduce reoffending.
There is no role for the Parole Board in sentencing a prisoner as that is a matter for the courts. Neither can the Parole Board decide whether a sentence was fair in a particular case.
The Programme for Government 2018-19 committed the Scottish Government to improving support for victims of crime, including consulting on parole.
On 12 December 2018, the Justice Secretary co-chaired the first meeting of the Victims Taskforce, which aims to drive forward work to improve support, advice and information for victims of crime.