What is Parole?
Parole is a system that enables prisoners to be released on licence in the community under the supervision of a community based social worker. If a prisoner is released on parole, they are subject to be recalled to prison at any time if they breach the terms of their licence. Parole is only granted where the Parole Board for Scotland ("the Parole Board") is satisfied that the risk presented by the prisoner can be managed in the community.
What is the Parole Board for Scotland?
The Parole Board is a Tribunal Non-Departmental Public Body ( NDPB), it was formed in the Criminal Justice Act 1967 and has been retained by successive Acts of Parliament, including the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 and the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 (as amended). Further relevant statutory provisions are contained in the Convention Rights (Compliance) (Scotland) Act 2001 and the Parole Board (Scotland) Rules 2001 (as amended).
Parole Board members are appointed by the Scottish Ministers. The Parole Board has a number of statutory functions but operates independently from the Scottish Government. Directions and recommendations made to Scottish Ministers by the Parole Board about early release of an offender are binding, with the exception of deportation cases and applications for compassionate release where the Parole Board will offer advice only.
Primary statutory powers and functions of the Parole Board
The main powers and functions of the Parole Board are to:
- Recommend the release of determinate sentence prisoners serving four years or more and make recommendations as to the licence conditions of such prisoners;
- Recommend the release of prisoners serving extended sentences  where the custodial term is 4 years or more, make recommendations as to the licence conditions of such prisoners and make recommendations regarding the licence conditions of extended sentence prisoners where the combined custodial and extension period is 4 years or more;
- Direct the release on licence of life prisoners, at a point after the expiry of the court imposed punishment part of the sentence and prisoners subject to an order for lifelong restriction ( OLR)  ;
- Recommend the recall to custody of prisoners who have been released on licence in circumstances where such action is considered to be in the public interest; and,
- Direct the release of a child (other than children detained without limit of time or for life) at any time.
The Parole Board may also direct the Scottish Ministers to re-release any prisoner who has been recalled to custody without a recommendation of the Parole Board or any prisoner who has been recalled with such a recommendation. The cases of life prisoners and extended sentence prisoners who are recalled to custody must be considered by a tribunal of the Parole Board.
The Parole Board advises the Scottish Ministers on the variation or addition of any conditions to be attached to prisoners' release licences.
The Parole Board also operates as a referral body in the case of alleged breaches of Home Detention Curfew ( HDC)  conditions.
How does the Parole Board consider cases?
The Parole Board considers prisoners for parole at, tribunals, oral hearings and casework meetings. For tribunal and oral hearings, Parole Board members normally sit as a panel of three, with the chairman of the panel required to be legally qualified for tribunals and oral hearings.
At casework meetings the prisoner will not be present and the Parole Board will consider the case on the basis of the dossier of papers supplied to them by Scottish Ministers. Tribunals and oral hearings are held with the prisoner present, or through live link (such as a video link) enabling a prisoner or witness to attend from a remote location.
Tribunals are held for the first and subsequent considerations of life prisoners, prisoners subject to an OLR and prisoners with an extended sentence, who have been recalled to prison in the extended part of their sentence.
All other cases are considered at casework meetings, although in certain cases the Parole Board may, if it considers that is in the interests of justice, deal with the case by way of an oral hearing.
Why are we proposing changes to the Parole system?
The Scottish Government has established the Parole Reform Programme Board which will in part deliver the manifesto commitment:-
"We will improve the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have committed offences and complete the implementation of the parole reform project to modernise and improve support for the vital work of the Parole Board."
The programme aims to clarify the role and status of the Parole Board, simplify and modernise processes and support consistency of approach. Some of these changes can be addressed administratively through the review of existing processes and by better collaborative working with other bodies involved in the process, but some of the proposed improvements may require legislative change.
What are we seeking your views on?
This consultation seeks your views on potential changes to legislation relating to the:-
- Governance of the Parole Board;
- Involvement of Scottish Ministers in the parole process;
- Tests that the Parole Board apply in determining whether to release;
- Timescales for subsequent reviews following initial consideration for parole;
- Way in which information is supplied to the Parole Board; and,
- Administrative procedures for considering cases as set out in the Parole Board (Scotland) Rules 2001 ("the Rules").
Governance of the Parole Board
Current legislation says little about the status of the Parole Board and the governance arrangements that apply to it. We believe it is important that the Parole Board is both independent and seen to be independent. We are seeking views on ways to make the independence of the Parole Board, and the governance arrangements that apply to it clearer.
The legislation specifies the terms on which Parole Board members are appointed. We are seeking views on if these terms should be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose and broadly consistent with other similar bodies.
Involvement of Scottish Ministers in the Parole process
The Parole Board's recommendations and directions are binding in relation to all cases except deportation and compassionate release cases, where the Scottish Ministers currently make the final decision about release. We are seeking views on whether Scottish Ministers should continue to make the final decision to release in deportation cases.
We are also seeking views on who should set licence conditions for extended sentence prisoners who have a total sentence of four years or more where the custodial sentence is less than four years. Currently the Parole Board sets licence conditions in such cases.
The legislation currently makes various references to "recommendations" and "directions", and to "release" and "immediate release". We are seeking views on the terminology and any need to clarify responsibility as to who is making the final decision as to whether to release or recall to custody. We are also seeking views on applicable timescales for Scottish Ministers to release a prisoner following a direction to do so by the Parole Board.
Where a prisoner has been released by the Scottish Ministers on a Home Detention Curfew ( HDC) licence and this licence has then been revoked, the Scottish Ministers are currently required to refer to the Parole Board the case of any person who makes representations to them about the revocation. The Parole Board may direct, or decline to direct the Scottish Ministers to cancel that revocation. We are seeking views on whether time limits should be introduced by which a prisoner needs to make representation about the revocation of the licence.
Tests that the Parole Board apply in determining whether to release
There are currently different tests specified in the legislation that the Parole Board are required to use when determining whether to release a prisoner on parole licence or recall a prisoner to custody. We are seeking views on whether a common test should be applied and what that test should be.
Timescales for subsequent reviews following initial consideration for parole
Following an initial consideration there are currently different periods set for subsequent reviews by the Parole Board as to whether to release a prisoner on parole. We are seeking views on the review periods that should be applied.
Way in which information is supplied to the Parole Board
The Parole Board currently receives part of the information that it takes into account in making a decision whether to revoke a licence and re- release the prisoner or not, from Scottish Ministers. This information includes reports from other organisations such as local authority Social Work departments, Police Scotland and NHS Scotland. In some circumstances it may be more efficient for those organisations to supply some information directly to the Parole Board rather than via the Scottish Ministers. We are seeking views on whether organisations may be able, in certain circumstances, to submit information directly to the Parole Board rather than via the Scottish Ministers.
Administrative procedures for considering cases as set out in the Parole Board (Scotland) Rules 2001
The Rules set out a framework within which the Parole Board must operate in considering persons for release. The Rules were last amended in 2012. We are seeking views on possible changes to the Rules to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Parole Board.
Email: Avril Coats, ParoleReform@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House