The Parole Board Rules 2016 r.25(1), which prohibited making information public about Parole Board proceedings, was too broad and was ultra vires the rule-making power set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Pt 12 s.239(5). The Board’s decision directing the release of a Category A prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence was irrational, as the Board should have undertaken further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending, and in particular the fact that he had admitted only to the 12 sexual offences of which he had been convicted, when there were references in the dossier to “80+ potential victims” and a key issue leading to the release decision was his openness and honesty. The further inquiry would have allowed the Board to test his account.
A decision of the Department of Justice and Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland revoking a prisoner’s release on licence was not vitiated by irrationality where the recall to prison was plainly within the range of reasonable responses open to the official making that decision. The Department considered that the prisoner’s refusal to comply with electronic tagging requirements meant that the risk of his causing harm to the public had increased significantly, so that the test under the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 art.28(2)(b) had been met.
On the proper construction of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 s.28(5), the Secretary of State for Justice was not required to release a life prisoner as soon as the Parole Board had directed his release. Where residence at approved premises was specified as a condition of a prisoner’s release on licence, the obligation to release only arose once a place at the approved premises became available. The reasonableness of a period of detention pending release under a residence condition would depend entirely on the facts of the particular case. Delays in the release of two prisoners for 69 and 118 days pending the availability of beds in approved premises were not, in the circumstances, unreasonable.
The court had jurisdiction to make a declaration on a closed material application under the Justice and Security Act 2013 s.6 in judicial review proceedings challenging a decision not to prosecute. Although the case was not an appeal “in” criminal proceedings, since its outcome would not decide criminal liability, the words “criminal cause or matter” in s.6(11) were to be interpreted broadly.
The secretary of state was not obliged to exercise his power under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 s.128 as a means of relaxing the Parole Board’s test for releasing prisoners serving existing sentences of imprisonment for public protection, following the abolition prospectively of such sentences from December 2012. Given the difficulties in finding a suitable alternative release test, the secretary of state was entitled to instead improve the operation of those sentences to enable more prisoners to meet the conditions for release.