QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
1 Bridge Street West
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF LEE HILL||Claimant|
|THE PAROLE BOARD||Defendant|
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Mr A Fullwood (instructed by The Parole Board) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
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"3. If the Board does not consider it appropriate to direct release, it is invited to advise the Secretary of State:
i) on the prisoner's continued suitability for open conditions, if relevant;
ii) whether the prisoner, if in closed conditions, should be transferred to open conditions. If the Board makes such a recommendation, it is invited to comment on the degree of risk involved.
iii) on the continuing areas of risk that need to be addressed.
4. The Board is asked to give full reasons - which will be disclosed to the prisoner - for any decision or recommendation it makes."
"You committed a very serious offence which involved planned excessive violence as part of an ongoing disagreement with an individual who you already had a conviction for violence against and have since assaulted whilst in prison. Whilst it is accepted that you were provoked, the Sentencing Judge found that you presented a risk of harm not just to the individual but to members of the public. Your only other conviction is for violence in a similar context of you responding to an individual who had been harassing you. You have made some progress in developing your problem solving skills, for which you should be commended, as you should for your generally good custodial behaviour. The panel noted that you are significantly over tariff. However you are still, five years into your sentence, providing new and important background to the motivations and triggers to your violence which has limited the assessment of your risk factors. This panel concluded that your risk of harm is not limited to the victim of the index offence but goes wider to any individual who harasses you over a sustained period and that you have not yet addressed the central risk factor of your poor emotional management and its impact upon your thinking. It is also concerned about your lack of awareness of your need to change your life to move yourself away from one specific highly risky scenario. Having taken into account the written and oral evidence, the panel considers that your risk of serious harm remains too high and that it is necessary for the protection of the public that you remain confined. It does not direct your release or recommend your transfer to open conditions."
"A move to open conditions shall be based on a balanced assessment of risk and benefits. However, the Parole Board emphasis should be on the risk reduction aspect and, in particular, on the need for the lifer to have made significant progress in changing his/her attitudes and tackling behavioural problems in closed conditions, without which a move to open conditions will not generally be considered."
Paragraph 5 of the Directions states:
"The Parole Board must take the following main factors into account when evaluating the risks of transfer against the benefits:-
a) the extent to which the lifer has made sufficient progress during sentence in addressing and reducing risk to a level consistent with protecting the public from harm, in circumstances where the lifer in open conditions would be in the community, unsupervised, under licensed temporary release;
b) the extent to which the lifer is likely to comply with the conditions of any such form of temporary release;
c) the extent to which the lifer is considered trustworthy enough not to abscond;
d) the extent to which the lifer is likely to derive benefit from being able to address areas of concern and to be tested in a more realistic environment, such as to suggest that a transfer to open conditions is worthwhile at that stage."
"Your case was referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State to consider whether it was appropriate to direct your release and, failing this, to recommend whether you should be transferred to open conditions and to advise on any continuing areas of risk that need to be addressed."
"The intention is that the lifer will undergo final testing in conditions as near as possible to those in the community. He/she will be encouraged to gain work experience in preparation for life in the community."
"Whether the release of the lifer is consistent with the general requirements and objectives of supervision in the community, namely:
• protecting the public by ensuring their safety would not be placed unacceptably at risk;
• securing the lifer's successful reintegration into the community."
This is essentially what Mr Sperling describes as a "threshold" test. By contrast, the test set out in the directions relating to the transfer of a lifer to open conditions that I have quoted is a "balancing exercise" test.
"I acknowledge of course that it is not incumbent upon the Board to set out its thought processes in detail or to mention every factor that they have taken into account. However, in my judgment the balancing exercise they are required to carry out is so fundamental to the decision making process that they should make it plain that this has been done and to state broadly which factors they have taken into account. It does not appear to me that there has been any real attempt to balance risk against benefit. I have said that the assessment of risk is entirely a matter for the Panel. But there were at least two benefit factors which should have been taken into account."
"... it needs to be borne in mind that under the concurrent directions, although a balancing exercise is to be performed, the emphasis is on risk reduction and the need for the lifer to have made significant progress in changing attitudes and tackling behavioural problems in closed conditions in the way described in paragraph 3 of the Directions."
"The Panel were clearly mindful of the terms of the referral provided to us by the Secretary of State and the need to consider the suitability of your client for a move to open conditions."
"Ms Green did not recommend your release or your move to open conditions as you have not yet addressed your anger management issues or your emotional management. She is also concerned that you have also recently disclosed a significant problem with alcohol in the past and considers that you may benefit from relapse prevention work. Ms Clifford recommended that you remained in closed conditions."
"The panel considered that your risk management plan would not manage your risks as it places you back in essentially the same setting as you were in when you committed your violent offences, albeit that the relationship with your partner is now over."