Dean recently represented a long-standing client before the Parole Board for his pre-tariff review.
The hearing took place over two separate days as on the first occasion, the Panel had not been provided with a full copy of the parole dossier and were given a security report with the Offender Supervisor’s handwritten notes, which contained serious allegations that were not within the report.
The Panel having seen the information and it’s seriousness felt they had to recluse themselves and direct the SSJ to consider a non-disclosure application.
Having in the adjourned period obtained disclosure of the security information, Dean and his client set about challenging the credibility of it.
At the 2nd hearing his OS was not supporting a move to open conditions on the basis of the security intel. His OM did support such a move, but had reservations.
During the hearing, a security governor was questioned at length. Given the sensitivity of some of the information, the client agreed to two closed sessions of evidence (client removed himself to allow Dean to question the info). Dean questioned the governor at length as to the grading of the intel, it’s credibility, it’s reliability and supporting evidence.
Through this questioning we were able to evidence that the intelligence was poorly rated and the pieces that were A and B grade (highly reliable) had been wrongly graded and should have been D or E (unreliable).
Dean’s view of this result is “What a fantastic result this was, given the amount of intelligence thrown into the mix. We had to adapt our argument at each stage and systematically go through the intelligence and demonstrate the flaws. This task was made all the more difficult by an OS whom would not change her recommendation as she was very concerned with the intelligence. We argued to the panel that no smoke without fire is not a legal principle and based on the evidence the intelligence was poor. There was no corroborating evidence to support the intelligence.
What was concerning about this case was that the OS had no real grasp of the non-disclosure principles and the lack of provision of the dossier to the Panel led to a deferral. She was pre-disposed to favour the intel without standing back and viewing it in it’s overall context.
This outcome was very pleasing to me as he had been a client since 2006 at the early stages of his sentence. He had remained in category A conditions until 2014 and I had always said to him once downgraded from cat A he would progress quickly. We had fought Judicial Reviews regarding his downgrading from category A.
I asked the panel for firm reasoning around disregarding the security intel and they confirmed in the decision that “little weight” could be placed on it.
He is now going to open conditions 2 years before his tariff expires, which will ensure he should be released on or around his tariff expiry.
This was a just and reasonable decision, which shows Panel’s can and do act independently and scrutinise intelligence. It also highlights the importance of having a lawyer experienced in such matters and fearlessly arguing the case to the Board”