Booth v Parole Board

Court:Supreme Court
Judge:Lord Reed, Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke
Judgment Date:09 Oct 2013
Neutral Citation:[2013] UKSC 61

[2013] UKSC 61


Michaelmas Term

On appeal from: [2010] EWCA Civ 1409; [2011] NICA 6


Lord Neuberger, President

Lady Hale, Deputy President

Lord Kerr

Lord Clarke

Lord Reed

The Parole Board
The Parole Board

In the matter of an application of James Clyde Reilly for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)

Appellant (Osborn) Respondent

Hugh Southey QC

Vijay Jagadesham

(Instructed by Ison Harrison Solicitors)

Appellant (Booth)

Hugh Southey QC

Vijay Jagadesham

(Instructed by Scott Moncrieff & Associate sLLP)

Appellant (Reilly)

Barry Macdonald QC

Dessie Hutton BL

(Instructed by Madden & Finucane)


James Eadie QC

David Manknell

(Instructed by Treasury Solicitors)


James Eadie QC

David Manknell

(Instructed by Treasury Solicitors)


James Eadie QC

David Manknell

(Instructed by Treasury Solicitors)

Heard on 16, 17 and 18 April 2013

Lord Reed ( with whom Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Clarke agree)


These three appeals raise questions as to the circumstances in which the Parole Board ("the board") is required to hold an oral hearing. One of the appeals (that of the appellant Osborn) concerns a determinate sentence prisoner who was released on licence but then recalled to custody. The other appeals (those of the appellants Booth and Reilly) concern indeterminate sentence prisoners who have served their minimum terms.


It may be helpful to summarise at the outset the conclusions which I have reached.

i) In order to comply with common law standards of procedural fairness, the board should hold an oral hearing before determining an application for release, or for a transfer to open conditions, whenever fairness to the prisoner requires such a hearing in the light of the facts of the case and the importance of what is at stake. By doing so the board will also fulfil its duty under section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to act compatibly with article 5(4) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in circumstances where that article is engaged.

ii) It is impossible to define exhaustively the circumstances in which an oral hearing will be necessary, but such circumstances will often include the following:

a) Where facts which appear to the board to be important are in dispute, or where a significant explanation or mitigation is advanced which needs to be heard orally in order fairly to determine its credibility. The board should guard against any tendency to underestimate the importance of issues of fact which may be disputed or open to explanation or mitigation.

b) Where the board cannot otherwise properly or fairly make an independent assessment of risk, or of the means by which it should be managed and addressed. That is likely to be the position in cases where such an assessment may depend upon the view formed by the board (including its members with expertise in psychology or psychiatry) of characteristics of the prisoner which can best be judged by seeing or questioning him in person, or where a psychological assessment produced by the Ministry of Justice is disputed on tenable grounds, or where the board may be materially assisted by hearing evidence, for example from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Cases concerning prisoners who have spent many years in custody are likely to fall into the first of these categories.

c) Where it is maintained on tenable grounds that a face to face encounter with the board, or the questioning of those who have dealt with the prisoner, is necessary in order to enable him or his representatives to put their case effectively or to test the views of those who have dealt with him.

d) Where, in the light of the representations made by or on behalf of the prisoner, it would be unfair for a "paper" decision made by a single member panel of the board to become final without allowing an oral hearing: for example, if the representations raise issues which place in serious question anything in the paper decision which may in practice have a significant impact on the prisoner's future management in prison or on future reviews.

iii) In order to act fairly, the board should consider whether its independent assessment of risk, and of the means by which it should be managed and addressed, may benefit from the closer examination which an oral hearing can provide.

iv) The board should also bear in mind that the purpose of holding an oral hearing is not only to assist it in its decision-making, but also to reflect the prisoner's legitimate interest in being able to participate in a decision with important implications for him, where he has something useful to contribute.

v) The question whether fairness requires a prisoner to be given an oral hearing is different from the question whether he has a particular likelihood of being released or transferred to open conditions, and cannot be answered by assessing that likelihood.

vi) When dealing with cases concerning recalled prisoners, the board should bear in mind that the prisoner has been deprived of his freedom, albeit conditional. When dealing with cases concerning post-tariff indeterminate sentence prisoners, it should scrutinise ever more anxiously whether the level of risk is unacceptable, the longer the time the prisoner has spent in prison following the expiry of his tariff.

vii) The board must be, and appear to be, independent and impartial. It should not be predisposed to favour the official account of events, or official assessments of risk, over the case advanced by the prisoner.

viii) The board should guard against any temptation to refuse oral hearings as a means of saving time, trouble and expense.

ix) The board's decision, for the purposes of this guidance, is not confined to its determination of whether or not to recommend the prisoner's release or transfer to open conditions, but includes any other aspects of its decision (such as comments or advice in relation to the prisoner's treatment needs or the offending behaviour work which is required) which will in practice have a significant impact on his management in prison or on future reviews.

x) "Paper" decisions made by single member panels of the board are provisional. The right of the prisoner to request an oral hearing is not correctly characterised as a right of appeal. In order to justify the holding of an oral hearing, the prisoner does not have to demonstrate that the paper decision was wrong, or even that it may have been wrong: what he has to persuade the board is that an oral hearing is appropriate.

xi) In applying this guidance, it will be prudent for the board to allow an oral hearing if it is in doubt whether to do so or not.

xii) The common law duty to act fairly, as it applies in this context, is influenced by the requirements of article 5(4) as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. Compliance with the common law duty should result in compliance also with the requirements of article 5(4) in relation to procedural fairness.

xiii) A breach of the requirements of procedural fairness under article 5(4) will not normally result in an award of damages under section 8 of the Human Rights Act unless the prisoner has suffered a consequent deprivation of liberty.

The legislative framework

Section 239(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 ("the 2003 Act") provides that it is the duty of the board to advise the Secretary of State with respect to any matter referred to it by him which is to do with the early release or recall of prisoners. This includes advising on licence conditions: R (Brooke) v Parole Board [2008] EWCA Civ 29; [2008] 1 WLR 1950, para 47. Section 239(5) permits the Secretary of State to make rules with respect to the proceedings of the board. Section 239(6) permits the Secretary of State to give the board directions as to the matters to be taken into account by it in discharging its functions under Chapter 6 of Part 12 of the 2003 Act, which concerns the release, licences and recall of determinate sentence prisoners, or under Chapter II of Part II of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 as amended ("the 1997 Act"), which concerns the release, licences and recall of indeterminate sentence prisoners. It will be necessary to return to the rules and directions which were in force at the material time.


Determinate sentence prisoners who are serving a sentence of 12 months or more are automatically entitled to be released on licence at the halfway point in their sentence: section 244 of the 2003 Act. Section 254 confers on the Secretary of State the power to revoke the licence and to recall the prisoner to prison. There is no obligation on the Secretary of State to consult the board before doing so, and any direct challenge to the Secretary of State's decision to revoke a licence can only be made by way of an application for judicial review. At the material time, section 255C(4) of the 2003 Act (as inserted by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) imposed a duty upon the Secretary of State to refer the recalled prisoner's case to the board. Section 255C(5) provided that, where on such a reference the board recommended the prisoner's immediate release, the Secretary of State must give effect to that recommendation.


In relation to indeterminate sentence prisoners, section 28(5) of the 1997 Act imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to release the prisoner as soon as he has served the tariff part of his sentence and the board has directed his release. Section 28(6) prohibits the board from giving such a direction unless it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined.

The Rules

The rules in force at the material time were the Parole Board Rules 2004 as amended by the Parole...

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