At McGreevy & Co., we have extensive experience of representing prisoners before the Parole Board for Scotland. Whether by assisting determinate sentence prisoners in drafting their self-representations or representing Life Prisoners at their Tribunal we are ready and able to help. Our Mr Smith has been assisting prisoners with their applications for parole for approximately 10 years. Mr Smith has appeared before well in excess of 150 Parole Board for Scotland Tribunals and Oral Hearings. Through his prisoner rights work he has amassed considerable knowledge of the workings of the Scottish Prisoner Service and the risk management process they apply to various categories of prisoners. He has attempted over the years to build a working relationship with the prison staff involved in the parole process and those involved in the day to day running of the Parole Board for Scotland.
When choosing a solicitor to assist with a parole application a prisoner should ensure that their solicitor has experience of dealing with such cases. As a firm we strongly believe that the parole process is as important as the initial representation in court. It is all about the preparation. It is all about an intimate knowledge of the paperwork and building a rapport with the prisoner. The same care and preparation should be afforded to the task by both the applicant for parole and by the solicitor. It is not something that should be left to chance. Often the Parole Board will be considering many cases and the prisoner needs to ensure that the Parole Board has all the information that they need and if not a request should be made that it is obtained. The instructed solicitor should be aware of the various legal tests that apply to different categories of prisoners. They should be aware of the rules that underpin the process. The solicitor should also be intimately aware of the risk management process that the Scottish Prison Service apply and how these process may affect the application for parole and/or future management of the prisoner. Your solicitor should help you to identify issues that may need further clarification or witnesses to attend at a hearing if there is to be one. It is not a task that should be done half-heartedly. After all, the Parole Board are considering the liberty of the prisoner in much the same way as the court considered it at the start of the sentence.
Our view is that the parole process starts when the prisoner starts his sentence. Everything the prisoner does whilst serving the sentence may form part of the decision making process. Have they failed a drug test? Have they amassed Governor’s reports? Have they completed courses or spent time in the Open Estate. However, the formal parole process starts when the prisoner is served with their dossier. This is a set of papers which contains information about the conviction, progress in custody and background reports form social work. Once the prisoner receives their dossier they should immediately contact a solicitor as various time limits will apply depending on the type of sentence being served. The solicitor should ensure that the dossier is read in full as we have no doubt that the members of the Parole Board will have done so.
Determinate Sentence prisoners
Once the dossier is served the prisoner will have 4 weeks to make self-representations. A determinate sentence prisoner will not only want a solicitor to help them with their self-representations but will want them to identify issues and make written submissions seeking release and addressing the legal test which requires to be met before release can be granted. A solicitor should also have a full understanding of the case law. Any application will initially be considered in private at a case work meeting. An Oral Hearing may be convened should further information be required or if it is considered preferable to consider release in that way. If that occurs the prisoner will appear before 3 members of the Parole Board along with a solicitor, should they be legally represented.
Extended Sentence prisoners
Whilst an extended sentence prisoner is within the custodial part of their sentence their application for parole will follow the same process as a determinate sentence prisoner. Once an extended sentence prisoner enters the extended part of their sentence a Tribunal of the Parole Board will be convened.
Life Prisoners and Order of Life Long Restriction prisoners
Life Prisoners and OLR prisoners are automatically entitled to a Tribunal before the Parole Board. The first Tribunal will take place as near as possible to the expiry of the tariff. Thereafter it will be up the Parole Board to fix a review date no longer than 2 years hence. We strongly recommend that a solicitor is instructed to assist.
If a prisoner is recalled to custody in terms of Section 17, they will be afforded a right to seek re-release. If they are a Life, OLR or Extended Sentence prisoner in the custodial part of their sentence they will have an automatic right to a Tribunal. If they are a Determinate Sentence prisoner they will have a paper based review. Either way, we strongly recommend that a solicitor is instructed to assist with the process.
We also assist Scottish prisoners who are serving Scottish sentences in England. Sometimes prisoners from Scotland transfer to England and we are also happy to assist those prisoners with the parole process.
Judicial Review of the Parole Board for Scotland
There is no process to appeal a decision of the Parole Board for Scotland refusing parole. However, in certain limited circumstances, it may be possible to seek a Judicial Review of the decision. Any action of Judicial Review would require to be raised within 3 months of the date of the decision. We have recently been involved in a number of Judicial Review actions where the issue surrounded the failure by the Parole Board for Scotland to hold an Oral Hearing before reaching a final decision. Thankfully none of the Judicial Review Petitions required to be argued as the Parole Board for Scotland assigned an Oral Hearing and reconsidered the applications for release. In many of the cases the prisoner was subsequently released on licence.
We are happy to accept referrals from firms of solicitors who do not make applications for parole or attend Tribunals on behalf of their clients. We are also happy to provide advice to other solicitors’ clients in respect of actions of Judicial Review of the Parole Board for Scotland. Please feel free to contact our Mr Smith on 0141 422 2220.