My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks, has made the following written ministerial statement:
I have signed the Parole Board (Amendment) Rules 2014 Order which amends the Parole Board Rules 2011 to remove the requirement that a judge should sit on and chair Parole Board oral panels hearing the cases of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or a sentence during Her Majesty’s pleasure. As a consequence, the chairman of the Parole Board will be able to appoint any member, including sitting or retired judges, to sit on or chair such panels.
This approach will enable the Parole Board to adopt a flexible approach in assessing which of its members are best able to sit on and chair oral panels involving life sentence prisoners. Oral hearing panels, which do not include sitting or retired judges, already consider determinate cases and cases involving sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). These cases can be just as difficult and complex as the cases of life sentenced prisoners.
The Parole Board already assesses non-judicial members as to whether they possess sufficient skills and experience to be effective in chairing IPP cases. Following the amendment of the 2011 rules, the process of assessment and additional training will be extended to all members in respect of serving on and chairing life sentence panels.
This Government regard the protection of the public as a priority and this change will help us create a more effective and efficient criminal justice system and will allow greater flexibility, given the demands on a sitting judge’s time.