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Parole Board Consideration Mechanism

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2024

1. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Parole Board reconsideration mechanism. (900794)

The reconsideration mechanism introduced in July 2019 is a vital tool for public protection, allowing Ministers to intervene in broad cases where there is concern that the decision to release is irrational or procedurally flawed, or where there has been an error of law. Since 2019, this Government have used the mechanism to have 17 release decisions retaken by the Parole Board. Nine of those resulted in the board reversing its original decision to direct release, including the recent case of Colin Pitchfork.

The Treasurer of His Majesty’s Household, my right hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), and I have both raised concerns about the release of Edwin Hopkins, the schoolgirl killer of Naomi Smith. I know that the Secretary of State cannot retrospectively apply the law around parole, but will he assure my constituents and residents in neighbouring Nuneaton that the new laws in the Victims and Prisoners Bill going through Parliament at the moment put public safety at the heart of future Parole Board decisions?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that extremely troubling case. The murder committed by Edwin Hopkins was a truly dreadful crime, and I understand the concern about the release of prisoners who have committed such heinous offences. The reforms in the Victims and Prisoners Bill do ensure that public safety is at the forefront of parole decisions, including by codifying the release test in law and introducing a new power to allow the Secretary of State to direct a second check on the release of some of the most serious offenders.

I thank the Lord Chancellor for his response and his clear commitment to ensuring that victims are considered. As the Member of Parliament for Strangford, many people contact me about those getting early parole and decisions that are made. Will he reassure me and the House that victims will be considered and contacted before any person who has carried out an evil crime is actually released?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is one thing being a victim of a crime in the first place but another not being kept updated on progress of the sentence of that individual, or indeed a parole decision. That is why we are absolutely committed through the victims code and other mechanisms to ensuring that victims are kept updated, including during the important parole process.