Parole hearings will be open to the public for the first time

Parole hearings will be open to the public for the first time after outrage over John Worboys case

  • Ministry of Justice will relax the requirement to hold parole hearings in private
  • Victims and prisoners will be consulted over any decision to bring a hearing into the public eye, but neither will have a veto
  • Change follows decision to release of black cab rapist John Worboys, who was granted parole in a closed hearing

Parole hearings are to be opened up to the public for the first time.

The Ministry of Justice will relax the requirement to hold the hearings in private, in the biggest shake-up since parole boards were introduced more than 50 years ago. The plan raises the prospect of high-profile cases being heard in public.

The change follows the decision to release black cab rapist John Worboys, who was granted parole in a closed hearing in 2018. The ruling was quashed on appeal following uproar from victims.

Victims’ families, as well as the public and the press, are already routinely present in court and tribunals.

The Ministry of Justice will relax the requirement to hold parole hearings in private, in the biggest shake-up since parole boards were introduced more than 50 years ago. Pictured: Reading prison (file photo)

Victims and prisoners will be consulted over any decision to bring a hearing into the public eye, but neither will have a veto – though sensitive details may have to be heard in chambers to prevent re-traumatisation.

Lucy Frazer, Minister of State for Prisons and Probation, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The Government wants victims to be allowed to attend parole hearings if they wish, but we appreciate many would find a public hearing distressing.’

They are likely to be held remotely using a video link, as most parole boards take place in jails themselves. Victims must be informed of any forthcoming hearings and are allowed to attend and speak at them.

It is the biggest chance to the parole system since the boards were introduced 60 years ago, and brings the UK system closer to the more open Canadian one.

Parole board chief executive Martin Jones said: ‘I would have no problem, in a particularly high-profile case with a high level of public interest, to move the parole hearing into a court building.

‘Why not hold a hearing where you can have victims sitting in the public gallery and journalists watching that?’

A parole board spokesman confirmed they would launch a pilot scheme, adding: ‘Provided there are appropriate safeguards so as not to disrupt the proceedings, the board would welcome a staged approach to opening up hearings.

‘We agree with the victims’ commissioner that steps should be taken to prevent re-traumatisation of victims. This is of paramount importance to any change in the parole system.

‘We look forward to working with the press to make parole hearings more open to the public and will be working hard to create a format to increase understanding across the board.’  

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