Michael Robinson is a specialist criminal law litigator and advocate.
If you or a loved one are about to have a hearing before the Parole Board to determine whether you or they can be released, you may feel that deciding which solicitor may represent you is a simple choice. However, you actually need a specialist Parole Board Solicitor.
At Emmersons our Expert Parole Board Solicitors represent clients every week at Parole Board Hearings in the North East of England and on a national basis. We regularly appear at Parole Board Hearings at HM Prison Durham, HM Prison Holme House, HM Prison Kirklevington Grange, HM Prison Northumberland, HMYOI Deerbolt, HM Prison Everthorpe, HM Prison Full Sutton, HM Prison Hull, HM Prison Leeds, HM Prison Wealstun, HM Prison Wetherby, HM Prison Wakefield, HM Prison Frankland, HM Prison Low Newton.
Because of recent changes in Legal Aid Funding, many prisoners can not access legal help from a solicitor to deal with many issues. The Parole Board has therefore increased in importance as solicitors are still able to represent clients with the benefit of Legal Aid.
Emmersons Solicitors Prison Law Department work with our clients to plan their case well in advance of the Parole Board hearing date. It is essential that the preparation for your hearing occurs well in advance of the hearing date. This is extremely important as you only have one chance to appear before the Parole Board before having to wait a long time until your next hearing. Prisoners are often having to wait 18 months or longer between hearings.
At Emmersons Solicitors, we can offer you the expertise of Michael Robinson, John Griffith, Clark Robinson and Amber Hobson. All three lawyers have excellent reputations and receive most of their work by way of recommendation from other prisoners and from Criminal Lawyers who do not specialise in Prison Law.
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As many prisoners are now aware, the new Chairman of the Parole Board is the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Professor Nick Hardwick. Mr Hardwick, on taking on his new role, advocated putting the following sensible proposals to Ministers to attempt to reduce the numbers of the 4000 people who are imprisoned for public protection:
The new Parole Board Rules came into force on 22nd November 2016. The above proposals did not appear in them. Instead, we now have a rule where IPP prisoners can be released without the need for an oral hearing. This is more likely to happen where all parties recommend release and the case are clearly suitable for such a direction. It will be considered by a single member of the Parole Board who simply examines the reports and any written representations to assist them in making their decision.
Will there be many such decisions for release made on the papers? It seems highly unlikely that a significant number of IPP prisoners will be released this way. One experienced Panel Chair recently told me that he would be far from confident about directing the release of someone who had previously been considered ‘dangerous’ by a court, without having met the person and conducted a thorough risk assessment. Parole Board Panel Chairs can face disciplinary action if an unacceptable number of prisoners whom they have released commit further serious offences, so it is perhaps understandable that they would be cautious about doing so.
Also imposed in the interests of ‘reducing delays’, something to watch out for is a new rule that one can only have a seven-day extension to the deadline to submit written representations to the Parole Board. This applies even where a prisoner did not receive their dossier and has therefore been unable to comment on the unseen reports within it. Again, we believe that this cannot be lawful, for obvious reasons. A judicial review beckons, and it is to be hoped that we will return to being able to submit representations within a month of receipt of the dossier.
A measure that also causes us concern is the fact that the Parole Board panel members have received guidance which indicates that any SARN report or DARNA report (completed after sex offender and domestic violence programmes respectively) will take at least six months to complete. This has led to a number of prisoners being refused oral hearings, even where they have completed or are about to complete the last offending behaviour programme on their sentence plan. We have received advice that we should challenge this policy and have done so. This is a particularly odd policy, given that we know of several prisoners who have had the above reports completed within two or three months of completing the course and getting an eighteen-month ‘knockback’ to sit in custody doing nothing constructive cannot assist in reducing the number of prisoners in custody.
The drive to reduce delays and present the Parole Board as a court in its own right is not proving to be as beneficial as had been hoped when the highly respected Professor Hardwick became its Chairman. We hope that our forthcoming court proceedings will prompt a move towards getting people out of prison rather than rushed half measures which are simply pushed through to cut costs at the expense of prisoners’ freedom.
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"In the 15 years of me being in jail this is the best solicitors firm I have had. I would definitely use this solicitors again, they made me feel at ease during the run up to my Parole Board hearing and made me feel focused and positive. Thank you."
"The prison has phoned and R has got his release, we are over the moon. John, R is ecstatic, the family are overjoyed we can't thank you enough for the support given to him and us by yourself. R has always had good things to say about you and you have been a massive guardian by his side."