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Volume 897: debated on Monday 4 August 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now consulted the Parole Board about the possibility of extending parole; and whether he will make a statement.

Yes. It is now over seven years since the principles of parole were explained in Parliament during debates on what became the Criminal Justice Act 1967. The main criteria then laid down, which have been amplified in the independent Parole Boards' annual reports, have stood up well, and many thousands of prisoners have been paroled without appreciable increase in risk to the public.I am fully persuaded, however, that the use of parole can properly and safely be extended. I have therefore consulted the Parole Board and agreed with it new guidelines within which these basic principles can be interepreted to achieve this end without loss of public confidence in the scheme.There are two ways in which progress can be made; one is the granting of parole earlier to the kind of prisoners who already receive it. The other is to grant parole to more of the 60 per cent. of prisoners who are eligible but who do not receive it.It remains important that the grant of parole should not expose the public to serious danger during a period when a prisoner would otherwise be serving his sentence in prison. If a prisoner has previously committed crimes such as serious offences of violence or major professional crimes, parole is justified only if there is good reason to believe that he will avoid crime in future, but where the board is satisfied as to this parole for such a prisoner need not be ruled out in the early part of the parolable period.In the case of a prisoner whose character and record suggest no likelihood of his committing offences of the kind just mentioned, there is a good case for granting parole, and earlier rather than later, unless there is evidence of an anti-social attitude, and particularly an intention to return to his old criminal behaviour Much weight should be attached to the potential benefits of early release on licence under probation supervision.Against this background, the board will continue to take into account all the factors in the individual situation relevant to parole and to consider each case on its individual merits.I also propose to make more use of power under Section 35 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 to grant parole on the recommendation of the local review committee without reference to the Parole Board. This will enable the board to consider more cases of prisoners who would otherwise have been refused parole without reference to the board.

Further measures dealing with the numbers in custody are, in my view, necessary. Some of them, such as the implementation of the major recommendations of the Working Party on Bail Procedures in Magistrates Courts, require legislation. I hope to make a further statement in the autumn.