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Publication - Consultation responses

Parole reform in Scotland: analysis of consultation responses

Published: 12 Feb 2018
Directorate:
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Law and order, Research
ISBN:
9781788515702

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

37 page PDF

709.1 kB

37 page PDF

709.1 kB

Contents
Parole reform in Scotland: analysis of consultation responses
3. Governance of the Parole Board

37 page PDF

709.1 kB

3. Governance of the Parole Board

Overview

3.1 Current primary legislation says nothing about the independent status of the Parole Board for Scotland and the governance arrangements that apply to it. It is felt that it is important to reinforce and make clear that the Parole Board for Scotland is, and always has been, independent in terms of judicial decision-making and in terms of governance and management.

3.2 Under this section, views were sought on independence, revisions to the oversight of the appointment process, duration of the terms of office for those appointed to the Parole Board, the current prescribed membership of those appointed and whether there was a need to review the current upper-age restriction of those appointed.

Independence of the Parole Board

Q1. "Do you agree that there is a need to reinforce the independent nature of the Parole Board's decision making and clarify accountability?"

3.3 Sixteen of the 23 respondents answered the initial question. Responses were as follows:

R = Total Responses
Y = Yes
N = No
Overall responses Public Sector LA Individual 3 rd sector legal Judiciary
R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N
(Q1) Reinforce independence of the Parole Board 16 14 2 5 4 1 5 5 0 1 1 0 3 3 0 1 0 1 1 1 0

Key themes from respondents in relation to the question "how do you believe this would be best achieved?" were:

For those who answered Yes:

  • independence of the Parole Board both in terms of governance structure and judicial decision-making should be reinforced and clearly set out in legislation.
  • a clear statement on the Parole Board's status would reinforce public confidence.
  • any actual or perceived involvement with the Scottish Ministers and their officials should be minimised. This includes appointments, Parole Board decisions which are binding and sponsorship of a non-departmental public body.
  • lack of clarity on how the Parole Board operates, and this needs to be rectified including role or involvement (if any) of the Scottish Ministers.
  • one respondent suggested the Parole Board could be transferred to the Scottish Tribunals as created by the Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014, with administrative support provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

For those who answered No:

  • no comments were provided from the public sector organisation.
  • the legal organisation did not consider that a public statement on the Parole Board's independence and governance structures would provide any meaningful benefit as those with an interest in parole and parole related issues are likely to be aware without the requirement of a statement.

Appointment terms of duration

Q2. "Do you agree that the current provisions governing appointment and reappointment to the Parole Board remain fit for purpose?"

3.4 Seventeen of the 23 respondents answered the initial question. Responses were as follows: -

R = Total Responses
Y = Yes
N = No
Overall Responses Public Sector LA Individual 3 rd sector legal Judiciary
R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N
(Q2) Appointment duration terms fit for purpose 17 5 12 5 2 3 5 2 3 2 1 1 3 0 3 1 0 1 1 0 1

Key themes from respondents in relation to their follow-up comments were:

For those who answered Yes: -

  • five years may not be sufficient to build up the experience and knowledge required.
  • limits opportunities for new appointees given proposed re-appointment process and membership may become stagnant.

For those who answered No: -

  • whilst answering No, one of the public sector respondents acknowledged that aligning with other similar bodies may be appropriate.
  • current term of appointment (six or seven years) is perceived as being out-of-step with other similar bodies. Re-aligning the Parole Board appointments with similar bodies would appear appropriate.
  • proposal that if appointments were removed from Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland ( CESPL) remit they should then replicate other tribunal bodies and have their appointments made by the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland ( JABS).
  • it was acknowledged that re-appointment should be offered but with a caveat the person must still meet the required criteria needed by the Parole Board at that point.
  • requirement for a process to remove an individual should be retained.
  • whilst agreeing current provisions were not fit for purpose, there was a concern that a rolling re-appointment process may be restrictive in relation to having new appointees to the Parole Board.

Removal of upper age restriction on membership of the Parole Board

Q3. "Do you agree that the upper age restriction on membership of the Parole Board should be removed?" [currently a person must step down when they reach 75]

3.5 Sixteen of the 23 respondents answered the initial question. Responses were as follows:

R = Total Responses
Y = Yes
N = No
Overall Responses Public Sector LA Individual 3 rd sector legal Judiciary
R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N
(Q3) Removal/review upper age limit of 75 16 11 5 4 4 0 5 4 1 3 1 2 3 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 0

Key themes from respondents in relation to their follow-up comments were:

For those who answered No: -

  • seems limited as to any benefit from appointments going beyond statutory and judicial retirement age.
  • important decisions relating to individuals liberty. Age should be reflective of other judicial posts (sheriffs) who retire at 70.

Prescribed membership of the Parole Board

Q4. "Do you agree that the current requirements regarding the membership of the Parole Board should be removed?" [currently membership must include a Lord Commissioner of Judiciary, registered medical practitioner who is a psychiatrist and a person who appears to the Scottish Ministers to have knowledge and experience of the supervision or aftercare of discharged prisoners and a person appearing to have a study of the causes of delinquency or treatment of offenders]

3.6 Eighteen of the 23 respondents answered the initial question. Responses were as follows: -

R = Total Responses
Y = Yes
N = No
Overall Responses Public Sector LA Individual 3 rd sector legal Judiciary
R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N
(Q4) Review prescribed membership of Parole Board 18 15 3 5 5 0 5 2 3 2 2 0 4 4 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

Key themes from respondents in relation to their follow-up comments were:

For those who answered Yes: -

  • concern by individuals this is out of date.
  • review required to ensure that correct fields of expertise and knowledge are represented this includes retaining a medical practitioner.
  • whilst a review of prescribed membership was welcomed, concerns were raised in losing certain knowledge bases if prescription was removed all together. The Parole Board would need to ensure when seeking new appointees it broadens the criteria to include those with knowledge of mental health issues. It was felt the experience needed to be broader than a psychiatrist as it was felt that this area specifically was dated.
  • ensure experience or knowledge of risks and post through-care is represented on the Board. This could be assisted through training.

For those who answered No: -

  • number of members may have increased but that does not necessarily mean increase in diversity of skills, knowledge and experience.
  • important current knowledge and experience of these areas is retained.

Removal from remit of CESPL for Parole Board recruitment

3.7 Appointments to the Parole Board for Scotland (Chair and Members) currently fall under the remit of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland ( CESPL).

Q5. "Do you agree that the Parole Board should be removed from the remit of CESPL?"

3.8 Fourteen of the 23 respondents answered the initial question. Responses were as follows:

R = Total Responses
Y = Yes
N = No
Overall Responses Public Sector LA Individual 3 rd sector legal Judiciary
R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N R Y N
(Q5) Removal of appointments to Parole Board from CESPL 14 7 7 4 2 2 5 1 4 2 2 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1

Key themes from respondents in relation to their follow-up comments were:

For those who answered Yes:

  • appears to be a misunderstanding by some respondents about the role of CESPL in the appointments to the Parole Board.
  • any alternative needs to be a transparent and open process. Suggestion that Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland may be an appropriate alternative.

For those who answered No:

  • concern if removed from remit there would be a lack of transparency and no safeguard in place in the standards/framework for appointing and re-appointing. Suggestion that the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland could take on the recruitment for the Parole Board members as they currently do this for other tribunal bodies not under the remit of CESPL.
  • appears to be a misunderstanding by some respondents about the role of CESPL in the appointments to the Parole Board.

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