Victims and families practice guide
This policy is to enable the Parole Board to meet its requirements under the Criminal Justice System's Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and to provide a clear policy for victim participation in Parole Board hearings.
For the purposes of this Policy a victim shall be defined as:
"Someone who was harmed or who has suffered physical or emotional damage as a result of the offence or offences."
The Board currently allows victims to make a written statement for consideration by the panel. This may be the statement put forward at trial, or a current statement. This statement is known as a Victim Personal Statement. Under the new arrangements the victim can still choose to have the written statement placed before the panel for the panel members to read for themselves. The victim may request to be present and have the statement read on his or her behalf or; request to be present and read it in person or; request to read the statement via Live-Link or record it on audio/video tape or DVD and played to the panel (only if facilities are available). Normally, a request to attend in person will be granted.
The statement should be concise and normally not take more than about 10 minutes. The audio/video tape or DVD must be limited to a reading by the victim of the written statement. The written statement must accompany the audio/video tape or DVD. The panel chair will have the power to limit the number of victim statements. The Ministry of Justice will be responsible for providing facilities for the playing of audio/video/DVD recordings and for the provision of Live Link.
A victim under 18 years of age will not normally be allowed to attend the hearing in person. A victim under 18 may choose to have the written statement placed before the panel for the panel members to read for themselves; or have the statement read on his or her behalf or; request to read the statement via Live-Link or record it on audio/video tape or DVD and played to the panel (if facilities are available).
Those preparing a victim personal statement should bear in mind that the Parole Board's primary role is to protect the public by risk assessing prisoners to decide whether or not they can be safely released into the community. Victim personal statements should therefore contain information that helps the Board assess the current risk the offender presents.
This statement and any recording thereof must be sent by the Ministry of Justice to the Board at least 28 days before the date fixed for the panel hearing. The statement will be considered by the panel chair as soon as is practicable thereafter. He/she may then give such directions in relation to the statement as he/she thinks fit. A direction may, for example, provide for the removal of any irrelevant material from the statement: however, if it appears to the panel chair that the statement contains new information potentially relevant to the prisoners risk, the panel chair may request the Secretary of State to submit evidence relating to the matter and/or may direct that that information will only remain within the statement if the victim attends the panel hearing as a witness in order to give evidence (and potentially to be cross-examined) in relation to it.
Either party (i.e. the Ministry of Justice or the prisoner) may make written representations to the panel chair in relation to the statement or to any of his/her directions. It should be clearly understood by victims that normally the statement and any recording thereof will be disclosed to the prisoner and his/her legal representative in its final form. If the victim wishes to object to such disclosure written notification to this effect (giving reasons) should be provided to the Ministry of Justice when the statement is sent and the Ministry of Justice may make the appropriate non-disclosure application to the Board (and thus to the panel chair). The application will be decided by the panel chair in accordance with Rule 6 (2) of the Parole Board Rules 2004 (as amended).
The attendance of the prisoner during the presentation of the Victim Personal Statement is a matter for him/her to decide. The prisoner cannot be forced to attend.
The normal practice should be for the victim, if attending in person, to read his/her statement to the panel at the start of the hearing. Normally the prisoner will not be present but his/her legal representative will be.
The victim will not be allowed to add anything to the contents of the written statement. The victim will not be questioned about the statement. Once the victim has read the statement, the victim and his/her supporter will be asked to leave. The panel will then continue with the hearing.
If the victim is attending the hearing in person he/she may apply to be accompanied by a supporter. It is suggested that this should normally be the Victim Liaison Officer or a family member or friend.
Arrangements to ensure that the victim is met, escorted and kept apart from the prisoner whilst attending the penal establishment is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
It is proposed that a suitable application form be prepared which should, amongst other things, briefly explain the role of the panel; how a victim statement may assist the panel; who can make a statement; what the statement should and should not contain; the various ways in which a statement can be presented to the panel; non-disclosure; what arrangements will be made if the victim wishes to attend the hearing; what the procedure will be at the hearing.
Laws on data protection and confidentiality mean that the victim will not be entitled to see the dossier or to be given a copy of the panel's written reasons. The National Offender Management Service will be responsible for informing the victim of the outcome of the Parole Board hearing.