Thursday, 10 September 2009

Parole Board publishes protocol on victim participation in hearings

Following a consultation with stakeholders representing both victims and prisoners, the Parole Board has today published a protocol that sets out a code of practice for victim participation in Parole Board hearings. This formal policy details the parameters of victim participation so that expectations are set and the Board can ensure that it meets its legal obligations to provide fair hearings.

For some time the Parole Board has been allowing victims to make written statements for consideration by the panel. These statements are commonly known as victim personal statements. On occasion, there have been applications for victims to attend hearings in order to present their victim personal statements in person. To date, such applications have been dealt with on a case by case basis.

Since the first victim participation in an oral hearing took place in November 2007, increasing numbers of victims or their families have taken up the opportunity to attend a hearing or submit a victim personal statement. Since then, the Public Protection Casework Section at the Ministry of Justice has recorded 67 victim personal statements being submitted, of which 19 were read out by advocates on behalf of victims and 21 involved victims or their families personally attending a hearing to make the statement.

In order to ensure that the expectations of victims, offenders, prison law practitioners, Ministry of Justice and other interested parties could be properly met, a formal policy on victim participation was drafted by the Parole Board’s Procedural Guidance Committee and put out for public consultation. Responses to the consultation were received from 30 different parties, including victims’ groups, prison law practitioners, partner agencies and Parole Board members.

The Rt Hon Sir David Latham, Chairman of the Parole Board, said:

“The Parole Board recognises the significance of giving victims a voice by allowing them to submit a statement for consideration by the panel and by enabling them to apply to attend and present that statement in person. The Parole Board also recognises that such inclusive processes for victims in the parole process can be emotionally difficult for victims and for offenders alike.

“We do appreciate that there has been some lack of clarity around what the purpose and benefit is of this engagement by victims. The aim of the policy is to formalise the parameters of both victim personal statements and victim participation in Parole Board hearings so that expectations are set and the Board can ensure that it meets its obligations under common law to provide fair hearings.”

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