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Political interventions have undermined the parole system’s effectiveness and independence

Arie Freiberg and colleagues write in The Conversation (10.4.18) that government and judicial interventions into the decisions of parole boards display a progressive loss of faith in these independent bodies.

‘Last month, the chair of the UK’s parole board, Nick Hardwick, resigned after three High Court judges ordered the board to reconsider its release on parole of serial sex offender John Worboys.

‘Two victims successfully challenged Worboys’ release on very strict conditions after he had been in jail for ten years. But the court ruled the parole board should have inquired further into Worboys’ offending to determine the credibility of his account to the board. It also held that a rule preventing the board from publicising its reasons was invalid.

‘Like the UK, parole systems in Australia have received sustained criticism recently. Parole boards, like courts, were established as independent and impartial bodies, particularly in relation to high-profile, emotive and controversial cases. The Worboys case highlights just how important this principle is.

‘… To date, Australian governments have resisted the temptation to abolish parole completely. However, they have too often succumbed to perceived community pressure to restrict parole and limit parole authorities’ independence and powers.

‘Parole is an imperfect system and mistakes are inevitable. Nevertheless, like sentencing, it should remain in the hands of impartial and independent bodies. Parliaments should remember that an effective parole system provides the community with a valuable mechanism for promoting its safety.’

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