Public safety is the primary consideration in Parole Board decisions on releasing a prisoner. The law requires that the Parole Board may direct release only if it is satisfied that continued detention is no longer necessary for the protection of the public. Parole Board members are selected on account of their experience and ability to assess risk. Their decisions are based on a comprehensive assessment of the ongoing risk posed by the offender, using detailed reports produced by risk management professionals. More broadly, I have already announced that my Department will be carrying out a full review of the relevant processes and procedures in place for victims relating to Parole Board decisions, and we will consider whether they should be improved.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. Both of us worked in the same City firm—Richards Butler—at different stages over a number of years. In light of the recent John Worboys case, my constituents have raised similar concerns with regard to the release of Colin Pitchfork who brutally raped and murdered two teenage girls in my constituency and pleaded not guilty. He was only found guilty as a result of DNA evidence, which was a first at the time. What assurances can my right hon. Friend provide for the safety of my constituents and others who have not been fully considered in this matter? Will he assure us that the Parole Board will take into account the safety of our citizens in regard to Mr Pitchfork’s release?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. The safety of the public is the Parole Board’s overriding concern in considering whether a prisoner should be released, and that will be the Board’s concern when it comes to reviewing Pitchfork’s detention. I can confirm that the families of Pitchfork’s victims are receiving regular contact under the Probation Service Victim Contact Scheme. Specifically, they have been given the opportunity to submit a victim personal statement to the Parole Board and to make representations regarding licence conditions for any upcoming parole hearing.
On the special protections in place for the release of sex offenders, does the Minister believe that releasing them to the same area that the attacks took place re-traumatises the victims and stirs up community anxiety?
Ultimately, these are operational decisions. A number of factors have to be taken into account in deciding what licensed conditions exist, but, clearly, the views and concerns of victims are an important part of that process.
In relation to the Parole Board’s review of public safety, for those of us with deeply concerned victims of John Worboys in our constituencies, can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will at least co-operate with the judicial review now being brought by victims?
In my statement to the House on Friday, I set out that I would not be pursuing a judicial review on behalf of the Government in this case, but I also made it very clear that I did not want to say or do anything that would in any way stand in the way of others who may have different routes into a judicial review. I maintain that position.