Blog: Parole – who’s making the rules?
We recently received a response to a Freedom of Information request in which we asked for more detail about the decisions taken in the Ministry of Justice to turn down Parole Board recommendations for open conditions. What that response reveals begs yet more questions about who is making the rules.
We recently received a response to a Freedom of Information request in which we asked for more detail about the decisions taken in the Ministry of Justice to turn down Parole Board recommendations for open conditions.
The response reveals an interesting issue for people who received a recommendation from the Parole Board before the introduction of the new guidance on 6 June 2022, but a decision from the Ministry of Justice after the new guidance.
Something dramatic altered how officials considered cases after 6 June
The FOI response is very explicit that in those cases officials at the Ministry of Justice were required to apply the same criteria as the Parole Board in considering the recommendation for a move to open conditions. In other words – officials should have been applying a test which historically has led to 95% of Parole Board recommendations being accepted.
But what the data shows is that in these cases the acceptance rate changes completely after 6 June, with 109 recommendations rejected and just 14 accepted.
So something dramatic altered how officials considered cases after 6 June, even though they were supposed to be applying the same more generous (and rational) criteria as the Parole Board when it made the recommendation.
The FOI response also tells us that there has been no personal involvement by a minister in any of these refusal decisions. That’s significant because it suggests that there has been a change in policy, but not one driven by the personal involvement of ministers in any individual case. Officials are not reacting to what they have seen a minister decide case by case. The question we have to ask then is why did officials start to reject the overwhelming majority of Parole Board recommendations before the new criteria came into force?
You would expect in something of this importance that officials would only start to behave so differently if they had received a ministerial instruction to do so. So we’ve asked that question, and await a response.