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Prisoners Released on Licence and Victims’ Families

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2021

22. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Parole Board’s communications with victims’ families when deciding whether offenders sentenced to life imprisonment should be released on licence. (903428)

It is for the probation service, through its victim liaison officers, rather than the Parole Board to notify victims of upcoming parole reviews and to ensure that they are able to exercise their statutory rights to make a victim personal statement or request licence conditions. It is understandably distressing when victims are told of an offender’s release, and we are therefore investing heavily in the probation service and its designated professional staff to give them further support.

My constituent Michael McGrath is battling for justice for his family. His sister Rachel McGrath was murdered in a brutal stranger attack by Nicholas Burton in 1997. The trial judge described Burton as merciless and manipulative, and stated that no Home Secretary—as the arrangement was at the time—would ever be likely to allow his release. Rachel’s elderly parents were recently told that Burton would walk free next year. They have not even been able to make a victim statement, and they believe that correct procedure has not been followed. Will the Secretary of State please agree to a ministerial meeting with the family to help to ensure that they have all the information they need, and that their voice is heard and respected?

I thank the right hon. Lady for raising that extremely sensitive, distressing and frankly appalling case. Yes, of course I would be delighted to meet the family. May I also make a general point? We—and, in fairness, I think that this applies across all parties—are very keen for victims to be not spectators but participants in these matters, so their voice shall be heard, and we will continue to do everything possible to strengthen that voice.