The Parole Board as ‘functus officio’: R (Dickins) v Parole Board [2021] EWHC 1166 (Admin)

AuthorAndrew Beetham
Published date01 October 2021
Date01 October 2021
Subject MatterCase Notes
Case Note
The Parole Board as ‘functus
R (Dickins) v Parole Board [2021] EWHC 1166
Release of indeterminate sentence prisoner, Parole Board reconsideration, functus officio,
judicial review
This origins of this case are highly dependent upon its facts, however, the resulting issues in the case
were ones of legal principle. On 31 July 2002, the Claimant was convicted of murder and sentenced to
the mandatory life sentence. His minimum term was set at 18 years, which expired in September 2019.
Prior to the expiry of his minimum term, the Claimant was transferred to HMP Hollesley Bay open
prison in December 2017. Upon the expiry of his minimum term, the Claimant became eligible for
regular reviews of his continued detention by the Parole Board (the Defendant).
On 26 March 2020, a Parole Board hearing was held to consider the Claimant’s continued detention.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this was conducted by telephone. The panel considering the
Claimant’s case were tending towards directing his release and therefore adjourned the hearing for an up
to date and complete Risk Management Plan from his Community Offender Manager, with the expecta-
tion that, upon receipt, a decision could be made on the papers without the need to formally reconvene.
On 5 May 2020, the Risk Management Plan was considered by the panel, and, on 11 May 2020, the panel
chair emailed the case manager with the panel’s reasoned decision directing the Claimant’s release. The
email was sent at 08:51. At 10:24 on 11 May 2020 (approximately 90 minutes after the reasoned decision
had been provided), the case manager was informed that the Claimant had been returned to a closed
prison because of an allegation made on 9 May 2020 that items had been passed to him in the prison car
park (‘the incident’).
On 12 May 2020, the panel chair made directions for further reports dealing with the return to
closed conditions. These directions, however, were never actioned following the intervention of the
Defendant’s legal advisor who, on 12 June 2020, concluded that the email of 08:51 on 11 May
2020 rendered the Defendant functus officio and therefore the panel chair had no power to reopen
the decision to release the Claimant. On 18 June 2020, the Defendant issued the panel’s reasoned
decision to release.
On 9 July 2020, the Secretary of State for Justice (‘SSJ’) (an Interested Party in the case) applied for
a reconsideration of the decision to release the Claimant (pursuant to Parole Board Rules 2019, r 28
(‘the PBR’)). The SSJ asserted that the decision to release the Claimant was irrational and/or proce-
durally unfair (PBR, rr 28(1)(a) and (b)) because the panel had failed to consider the incident of 9 May
2020. The reconsideration application was granted by HHJ Topolski QC. He concluded that the Parole
Board had not been rendered functus officio when the panel had made itsdecision(on11May2020at
08:51) but, rather, when it had communicated its decision to the parties (18 June 2020). The result was
that the decision not to consider the incident was a mistake of law which rendered the decision to
release irrational.
The Journal of Criminal Law
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00220183211034160
2021, Vol. 85(5) 406–408

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