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Minutes of the meeting of the All-Party Group on Penal Affairs, held on 11 February 2020

Guest Speakers

Caroline Corby, Chair, The Parole Board
Martin Jones, Chief Executive, The Parole Board

Present

Victoria Prentis MP (in the chair)
Lord Ramsbotham (in the chair)
Early Attlee
Kate Green MP
Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill
Baroness Masham of Ilton
Kenny MacAskill MP
Lord Ponsonby

Victoria Prentis MP opened the meeting by stating that she and Lord Ramsbotham had indicated their willingness to be nominated as co-chairs of the group, and all registered their satisfaction. Vice chair nominations had been received for Lord Beecham, Kate Green MP, Marie Rimmer MP, Andrew Selous MP; and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots as Secretary to the group. Again, all registered satisfaction. No other nominations had been received. The group was thus formally constituted.

Victoria Prentis MP thanked the trustees of the Barrow Cadbury Trust for their continued funding; the Prison Reform Trust for providing the secretariat; Mark Day, clerk, and Zoe Burton, Administrator; and Julia Braggins for preparing the minutes. A schedule of meetings for the next year would be decided and circulated.

She then welcomed the guest speakers, Caroline Corby, Chair and Martin Jones, Chief Executive of the Parole Board to address the meeting. She apologised for the fact that she would have to leave the meeting early, and Lord Ramsbotham would take the chair.

Caroline Corby said that they had brought some slides, but unfortunately there was no facility to show them in the meeting. However they had 25 copies, and would willingly send out more to those who requested them, after the meeting. She said she would say a little bit about the Parole Board, some of the changes that had taken place over the past two years, and given the terrible events in London recently, a little about terrorism cases and how the Board handled those.

‘The Parole Board is an independent court-like body which orders the release of prisoners, or, if somebody does not meet our release test, considers whether they are suitable for transfer to open conditions. If so, we make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, but we don’t order that. We deal with around 25,000 cases a year, and we cover a whole range of cases, of which Martin will give you more detail later.

Last year we released or progressed around 3,600 people. We released around 3,000 people and we recommended that around 600 people be moved from closed to open conditions. We also decided that 10,000 people needed to stay in prison, for the protection of the public. That illustrates that only one in four people meets our stringent tests for release. We take public protection extremely seriously: it is our number one consideration. And we have a very high success rate. The public can be very concerned about reconviction rates, particularly for those on short sentences who are automatically released. Those numbers can be very high. But that is absolutely not true of people who go through the parole process. Over 99% of the people that we release on parole do not go on to be charged with a serious further offence.

Decisions are taken by independent panel members. They sit, for an oral hearing, in a panel of up to three people. Otherwise cases, in the first instance, are decided on the papers. In terms of the make-up of our panel members, around 55% are female, and currently 13% have a BAME background. When Martin and I first got involved in the Parole Board we had a real problem with diversity. At the time less than 4% of our members had a BAME background, and we did not have a single black member when I became chair of the organisation. We were both extremely concerned about that: we put a great amount of effort into increasing the ethnic diversity of the Parole Board and we are going to do more about that this year as well.

Over 70% of our members have a background in the criminal justice system. We have around 44 judges – circuit court judges and above, and we also have four high court judges. We have 37 solicitors and barristers, and we have people with a lot of senior experience in the criminal justice system more generally: for example we have a retired chief constable, a retired chief executive of a probation trust. I am sure you will be aware also that many people who go through the parole process have mental health challenges, and therefore it is especially helpful that we have 52 specialist members who are psychologists and psychiatrists to help with the risk assessments that we undertake.

Some facts about release which are not well understood. There are roughly 85,000 people in prison in England and Wales at the moment, and last year around 64,000 people were released. However less than 5% of those were released by the parole system, so 95% of people are coming out automatically. Of course, we are dealing with the most serious cases. Again contrary to popular belief, three quarters of those whose cases go to the Parole Board get turned down. A very important function of the Parole Board is ensuring the lawful detention of people who come to the end of their punishment period. They have to have their sentence reviewed and risk assessed every couple of years. If the parole process did not happen it would not be lawful to keep dangerous people in prison. That is not generally well understood.

Finally I am going to talk a bit about the priorities the Parole Board has at the moment. One of the key challenges for us is that our work keeps on increasing, year on year. If you looked seven years ago, we probably held about 2,000 oral hearings a year. This year we are going to do about 8,500. In the next couple of years, the MoJ analytics department are forecasting over 10,000. So there is a big drive to increase the work that we do.

We also have to cope with changes in sentencing. We used to do a lot of work on IPPs. IPPs have not gone away, but we now have a lot more extended determinate sentences feeding through. And of course there have been recent changes announced last week in terms of terrorist offenders.

We are very conscious that we are spending public money. We spend about £20 million a year, and are always looking to ensure that we do that as efficiently and effectively as possible. We also want to make sure that our independence is protected and to ensure that our decisions are evidence-based. It is important that we have good links within the system, to make sure that we get the dossiers that have the information we need from probation officers and other people involved with prisoners in order that our panels can make informed decisions.

We also want to make sure we match the right parole board member with the issues in the case. So if there are significant mental health issues, for example, we will try to make sure that a psychiatrist or psychologist is on the panel. If there are complex legal issues, we will make sure there is a judge on the panel.

We are also very aware – Martin will talk more about this later - that victims find the parole system very difficult. Most victims do not want the perpetrator to be released. We deal with people who might have caused the loss of a loved one, or life-long trauma of either a psychological or a physical nature. It is very important that we deal with people as humanely as possible.

Finally, we have been subject to a number of reviews over the last couple of years. There have been a lot of changes in the way that we work, which we welcome. We are also subject to a couple of reviews right now. One is our tailored review, which will probably land in the next month or so. This is a significant review for us. Every arms-length body gets reviewed once in every parliament. We were last reviewed in 2015. There’s likely to be change that will flow from it. And another review was promised in the Conservative manifesto, a root and branch review of the parole system, and it will be important that we engage with that enthusiastically.’

Martin Jones: ‘I am now going to talk you through a little more detail about the sorts of cases that come to the Parole Board (PB). It can be confusing, and it has changed significantly over recent years. Most people who receive a custodial sentence in any given year will get a standard determinate one. That means that they will serve half of that sentence in custody and they will be released automatically on licence with no PB consideration. You are subject to recall during that period if you breach the terms of your licence conditions.

But once you remove that number, probably 75% of people in custody at any given time, you move on to what I describe as the classic parole sentences. The first of those is the sentence for offenders of particular concern, in which the offender must serve half of their sentence in custody and at the half way point they come to the PB for us to consider their continued dangerousness and potential release on parole. You then have extended determinate sentences, in which you come to the PB at the two thirds point in your sentence, and the same considerations and risk test apply. This is the key growing workload for the PB in the years to come. This was the replacement sentence for the IPP sentence when it was abolished in 2012 and so we know there is a huge number of people serving that sentence now.

We still have the remaining people serving the IPP sentence, where again there is a minimum tariff to be served for punishment, and release at that point is a matter for the PB. Discretionary life sentences are available at the discretion of the court for dangerous offenders, with a minimum tariff before parole, and mandatory life sentences, in which 99% have a minimum tariff before parole is possible. Finally, there are to be new arrangements for TACT (Terrorism Act 2000) offenders, shortly to be announced.

If you break down the prison population, 82,868 on the last published figures, 72,000 of those are sentenced, with the remainder on remand. 9,194 people are serving an indeterminate sentence. 7,060 of those are serving life, so around 2,150 people are serving an IPP sentence in custody still. 5,669 people are serving extended determinate sentences. That is the future work of the PB. We expect that to level out and peak around 2022. At the moment they are increasing year on year. Finally there are 8,434 people who have been recalled to custody for breaching the terms of their licence.

I joined the PB in 2015. I have to say that in 27 years of public service it has been the best job in my life, even if it has been perhaps the most challenging. The challenge when I joined was the huge backlog of cases caused by the Osborn judgment, and bringing down the delays was the key priority of the Board and the management committee at that time. It required a huge amount of effort, and we had to ratchet up the number of oral hearings that we held. We managed to reduce the number of outstanding cases by about 62% in that period, which was a huge achievement. We have also digitalised the way we work, so every member now works from a digital dossier of papers rather than a huge paper one. That has proved much more efficient, and has also driven out real savings which we have been able to reinvest in the services we provide.

The other more recent changes have been around transparency. About two years ago, at an appearance at the Justice Select Committee, people were asked why the PB did not explain the reasons for its decisions to the public and to victims. I do find it quite incredible that a victim would be told: we have released this person but you cannot know anything about the reasons why. So we now as standard provide a service to victims. We have issued around two and a half thousand summaries of our decisions to victims. 99% of those decisions are provided to victims and about 1% to the media. The media tend to focus on the most high profile cases. What you don’t see is victims taking their summaries and running to the local media. They see this as information for them. It gives them an idea of how the PB for example have taken account of their personal statement, and how the PB have set licence conditions for their protection, and for the protection of the public.

We have also taken steps to improve understanding. We have launched two videos on YouTube explaining the parole process to the general public. In particular there is one we produced in consultation with the Victims Commissioner directed at victims, to explain the parole process, how it works, and what is like to give evidence at a parole hearing. That has gone down extremely well. Last year the rules were changed to provide for the first time an opportunity to make a reconsideration application to the PB, where either of the parties, the Secretary of State or the prisoner, believes that the PB has acted irrationally or unfairly in the decision we have made. That decision was introduced last July. To date we have had about 150 applications, and about 13 of those applications succeeded. That’s a timely service – it takes about 13 days for your case to be considered, and anybody who knows anything about judicial review would agree that that can take rather longer for those decisions to be reviewed. We are also starting to publish all of those decisions, so if you go to the BAILII website (lawyers will know what I am talking about) or the PB website you can access about 40 reconsideration decisions to explain what we thought about some of these applications in relation to the question of whether we have acted fairly. I do welcome that as a move towards greater transparency.

Caroline has already talked about the move to increase the right mix of members we have. Last year we ran a huge recruitment campaign resulting in a significant increase in the number of members, and we will be having further recruitment activity this year. We did manage to significantly improve the number of members from a BAME background. Indeed at the last round the number of members recruited who were from a minority background was 48%. At the last APPG meeting I said that I would promise to come back with a successful result. A lot of work went into that campaign in terms of outreach, going to local communities. We had one event in Bradford, and one in Sheffield, which was really well attended. Around 150 people came along to learn about working for the PB, and a significant number of them subsequently applied. Many of those people, when they spoke to me that evening, said they didn’t even know what the Parole Board was. They had heard about it on the radio. They came along to the event, decided to apply, and some of those have converted. Some of their skills and expertise will be really valuable: people like mental health nurses, as well as retiring probation officers. In Sheffield, do you look on the Cabinet Office website when you are at the end of your career? I suspect not. By doing our outreach campaign we had some real successes. The trick is to embed in as business-as-usual, to make sure you build on that success in the future.

Victoria Prentis MP asked what percentage of people up before the PB were from minority backgrounds.

Martin Jones: To give you an indication, about 25% of the people the PB see are from minority backgrounds, and that compares with about 12% in the general population. So it is much more likely that the PB will see people from minority backgrounds. I went to Brixton Prison a couple of years ago now and somebody said to me: I’ve been to three parole hearings and I’ve never seen anyone other than a white person. And I said: frankly I’m not surprised. If I look at a group of PB members they are predominantly white. Hopefully that will start to change as we bring in new members.

Caroline Corby added: A couple of years ago when I came to the Select Committee we had some disparities of outcome by ethnicity. We have done a lot of work on that, and now there are hardly any disparities at all.

Martin Jones: A final point in relation to some of the challenges we face. It has been a period of immense scrutiny for the PB and I think that scrutiny will continue for the foreseeable future. But for any public institution, if you believe in the principles that underpin the work that you do, and you think you do it well, you’ve got to stand up to that scrutiny and address it. Emerging from that with determination and confidence is really important. The indications are that PB decision-making, despite the controversy, hasn’t actually changed. Our release rate is pretty much the same, which is a good sign of confidence in the organisation.

I have shared a slide which I am not going to talk to here, which shows the flow of cases in the parole system, how they come through and what happens. I think it’s a good visual way of seeing this, and indeed it was nominated for an award by the National Audit Office as a clear way of showing things. Perhaps I’ll hold this for my next Public Accounts Committee appearance. It does show that the workload of the PB has increased over the period. At the beginning of last year we had about 6,800 cases active, and at the end of the year 8,600. This idea of constantly increasing cases, every year, is important. We have to keep up with demand.

Victims are incredibly important to us at the PB. It is really important that you rehearse the rights that victims have under the Victims Code. Victims are entitled to updates on a prisoner’s progress in custody, including when parole hearings will be. They are entitled to submit a victim personal statement to the PB and can read it out if they wish. They can request licence conditions. Many victims decide not to submit or read out a personal statement but they do want to know that they can input into the licence conditions that are set for somebody’s release. They can request a summary of the decision. At the point at which I wrote this we had 2,499 issued decision summaries. I know from the fact that we issue 10 or 15 a day that it will be much higher than that now. They can also go to the Secretary of State and ask for a reconsideration of a parole decision. Of course, access to these legal entitlements for victims depends on people being signed up to the victim contact scheme, and knowing about the scheme in the first place. One of the things I am very concerned about, having spoken to victims, is that frankly, if you go to a criminal trial, which is often a very difficult, bruising experience, and you get a letter a month afterwards asking you if you want to sign up to some scheme which will tell you what’s going to be happening in fifteen years’ time, I suspect most victims have no memory of even receiving that letter. We need to think about how you sign people up to schemes, so that the parole process does not come as a dreadful shock. Many victims write to me saying they knew nothing about the parole process, and the answer is that they did not sign up to that victim contact scheme. I would support efforts to get more people signed up to it.

So the PB is committed to treating victims with respect and humanity and they have entitlements within the system. But our final decision is focused entirely on risk. Often PB members will have immense sympathy with the victim and their position and the trauma of the original crime. But if we are satisfied that imprisonment is no longer necessary for the protection of the public, in law we must direct the offender’s release. Whilst victim statements always have an impact on the panel – as how could they not – they should not impact on the primary decision that we make, which is based on current risk. The fact that a victim may know what happened twenty years ago does not mean that they are in the best position to judge the risk twenty, twenty-five, sometimes thirty years or longer after time in custody. But we are sensitive to non-contact conditions, exclusion zones, and I have to say, if you read a victim personal statement it is as if the offence had taken place yesterday. I think that is tremendously important in respect of how people are safeguarded. It may be twenty years, but if you have lost a child, or were the victim of a serious offence, for you, reading out a statement at a parole hearing, it is as if it were yesterday. That is important, in relation to the support that is provided.

Of course, because there is poor understanding of sentencing, victims may not understand why we are contemplating release. They say: I thought he got a life sentence and he would never be released, when the reality is he got a life sentence with a minimum period of ten years, at which point release is at the discretion of the PB. Explaining sentencing becomes increasingly important for the parole system, to make sure people understand how the regime works. Many victims also have unanswered questions about the index offence and the drivers behind those, and it is very difficult for the parole process to answer those questions when we are primarily looking at risk. It is helpful sometimes that issues like that can be raised, however, and on occasion we have been able to address those through the summary, for example to say if the offender has ever shown remorse. For most of those we see, the offender does say they feel remorse. Whether they actually mean it is a much more difficult question. But if we can provide some comfort I think we should do so. We have also been working with ‘Why Me?’ a restorative justice strategy, to think about how, if at all, the PB can take account of restorative justice in its decisions. We are focusing in particular on awareness raising and guidance for our members.
I will say a few words about our reconsideration mechanism which was introduced in July of last year. It mirrors the grounds of judicial review. 154 applications have been made so far and 13 applications have been allowed. Victims cannot apply directly to the PB if they believe our decision is wrong, but they can make representations to the Secretary of State. It has so far proved to be a cost-effective and speedy remedy, and of course it provides a mechanism whereby cases where we have got it wrong can be reopened, and repaneled and reconsidered as quickly as possible.

Finally I will say a few words about how the PB deals with terrorism offenders. There has been quite a lot of coverage of these in recent weeks. The PB already deals with a significant number of terrorism offenders. Anybody serving a life sentence, an extended determinate sentence or an IPP sentence for committing terrorism offences is already in the parole system. We probably deal with around 20 to 30 cases a year. So these cases are not new to us. The recently announced changes, which are a matter for Parliament to consider and agree, would probably add around 20 to 30 cases a year. My concern is not volume, it is probably complexity, and ensuring we have the right information to make the decisions in those cases to keep the public safe. We have a group of about 18 members, who have been cleared at the highest security levels to deal with potentially sensitive information. That includes six judicial members and three retired high court judges. We have recently agreed a protocol on sharing sensitive security information so that we can make safe decisions whilst also guarding fairness to the prisoner, which is our overarching aim. We have also provided training to our members and we have further training planned over the coming months to ensure we know the landscape and in particular that we understand how the latest programmes are working to ensure that we make well-informed decisions.

Victoria Prentis MP thanked both speakers very much and said that this subject could not be more topical. In the chamber colleagues had just been discussing ‘Helen’s Law’, regarding people who did not say where their victims’ bodies were, and the next day the proposed emergency terrorism sentencing provisions would be considered. She opened the floor for questions.

Ben Leapman from Inside Time newspaper asked about the 154 applications for reconsideration. He wondered how many were Secretary of State and how many were prisoner appeals, and how many had succeeded.

Martin Jones responded that the overwhelming majority had been from prisoners. The last time he checked there had been 12 applications from the Secretary of State, and the rest were from prisoners. As regards successful applications, he thought 11 of these had been from prisoners, and 2 from the Secretary of State. A prisoner could make an unrepresented application or one where a lawyer represented them and gave the legal reasons why the decision was thought to be unfair or irrational. Unsurprisingly, those where a lawyer was involved were more likely to succeed.

Baroness Masham asked whether the PB moved around the country, and where its bases were. She also wondered, given the recent case of the young man at the Tate, about how people coming out of special hospitals were managed. Her third question concerned brainwashed terrorists and how they could be dealt with.

Caroline Corby explained that oral hearings were all held in prisons. PB members were based all over England and Wales and they would go into prisons in groups of one, two or three to hear cases. The PB was a dispersed organisation. She, Martin and the 130-strong secretariat were based in London. It was a challenge to stay in touch with members, and the annual conference was one way of bringing everyone together. As regards the special hospitals, often people moved in and out of these.

Martin Jones added that there were perhaps 20 to 30 cases a year where people were held under two orders: orders under the Mental Health Act meant that a person would be held in hospital, maybe for a significant time, but they may also be under a criminal order. Until the person was discharged from hospital the PB had no jurisdiction over them. Once they were discharged into the jurisdiction of the Parole Board, the challenge then was how quickly the PB could move to make the right decisions on the case, and they were doing some work with the Mental Health Tribunal to avoid excessive delay.
As regards brainwashing, the PB was reliant on the good work on de-radicalisation happening through psychology departments in prisons. It was also important to talk to the Imams. The PB had to assess risk, and he did not minimise the difficulty of managing these cases as against other risks (for example those caused by alcohol-related offending). The PB had dealt with a few hundred terrorism cases over the last ten years, and the serious re-offending rate was about the same as for other cases. However of course there would occasionally be failures.

Kate Green MP asked whether legal advice for prisoners was funded, whether prisoners were entitled to legal aid, and whether a lawyer would appear to make representations in an oral hearing.

Martin Jones responded that prisoners were entitled to legal aid in almost all cases, given that their liberty was at issue. In his experience, probably 97% of prisoners were represented by a lawyer who would attend the hearing, make representations and question witnesses on their behalf. Generally, prisoners who were unrepresented had chosen to be so. A PB member would normally ask why a prisoner had decided not to involve a lawyer, and occasionally hearings would be adjourned if it was felt it would be in the prisoner’s best interest to do so.

Lord Ramsbotham asked how good the speakers thought the de-radicalisation programmes of the Prison and Probation Services were.

Caroline Corby responded that it was hard to judge. Members rightly took a very cautious approach when it came to terrorism offences. Some programmes (anger management, sex offenders, alcohol for example) and certain risk tools had a long history, and some reliance could be placed on them. We had less experience with terrorism cases, so psychologists and psychiatrists felt less confident in those areas. It was important that panel members could make informed decisions and getting relevant security information was important in getting a complete picture. Martin had been doing a lot of work with the security services in ensuring we had the right protocols in place so that they felt confident in sharing that information.

Lord Ponsonby wanted to ask about the victim contact scheme. In his work as a magistrate he had observed that there was often not good communication between court and police witness services. How joined up were they?

Martin Jones agreed that the system was over-complex. In addition to the police and courts victim services, the Probation Service also provided the victim liaison service, which contacted victims thereafter. He feared people could get lost, if they got a letter following the trial from someone they did not know asking if they wanted to sign up to the victim contact scheme. Perhaps people could be automatically signed up, and told they could opt out at any time.

Jamie Morrell from the Criminal Justice Alliance asked what impact the increased recruitment of BAME people had had on the work of the PB.

Martin Jones said that this cohort were only just starting to sit now, following their training, so it was hard to assess their impact yet. It would be interesting to come back in a year’s time to discuss it. However he thought their presence was improving the confidence of prisoners appearing before panels, and the energy of the Board.

Caroline Corby added that a key finding of the Lammy Review was that people had a low level of confidence in the criminal justice system. A key reason was that decision makers were not from a BAME background. Prisoners may go through five, six or seven parole hearings, and given that 27% of the prison population was from BAME backgrounds it was very important that they should not see only white faces. A more diverse board was very important.

Peter Dawson from the Prison Reform Trust said that the PB was the only part of the criminal justice system that could say it was more diverse than ten years ago, so congratulations were in order. However, given that only one in four prisoners were released as a result of a parole hearing, was it not an indictment of the prison system that more could not be released on the first occasion?

Caroline Corby responded that the Board was only responsible for the parole process. It was important to focus on what had changed. Delays in providing appropriate programmes had been well documented, but it was also true that people could take a while to change. The focus had to be on risk, and if people could not evidence to panel members that they had changed and were no longer a danger to the public, they would not be released.

Martin Jones added that PRT had published some interesting statistics showing that, with the increase in oral hearings, release rates had picked up over the past eight or nine years. This was partly because the numbers serving sentences involving parole had increased and partly as a result of the Osborn ruling. Release rates on oral hearings were about 50%. Most of those refused, many of whom had been recalled, were refused at the paper stage. Oral hearings, with all their resource implications, were certainly good for procedural fairness.

Lord Atlee asked whether, if panel members discovered that release could not be granted because the appropriate courses had not been provided, there was anything the PB could do. Keeping people in prison incurred considerable cost.

Martin Jones said that there was a statutory release test that had to be applied concerning the protection of the public. That having been said, there was a part of the decision letter in which the PB made recommendations to the Secretary of State in relation to the next steps necessary to progress the case. Members had been encouraged to use this, particularly in relation to IPP and indeterminate sentence prisoners who may feel lost in the system. Warren Hill Prison had been doing excellent work in trying to progress people who had failed multiple parole reviews, and release rates had improved.

Gemma Buckland from Do It Justice wondered whether sufficient resources had been provided to meet the additional demand the speakers had mentioned.

Caroline Corby responded that they were keen not to allow another backlog to build up. Also compensation was payable to prisoners for delays, which was not a good use of public money, as well as the additional costs of imprisonment. So far they had received the funds needed. Making the case for adequate funding for the PB, though not easy, was comparatively so.

Martin Jones added that they had probably received a budget uplift of about 35% over the past four years, as a result of making the case. As a result of reducing the back log, the amount paid out in compensation to prisoners had gone down from about £1 million to about £175,000 this year – down by about 85%. Additionally, a slow parole process meant keeping people who were safe to be released in prison for six months longer than necessary. This year there would be eight and a half thousand hearings. In a year or so there would be up to twelve thousand. Were there more efficient ways of dealing with things, especially for example with recall prisoners who may have only a short time left to serve?

Aidan Shilson-Thomas from Reform asked whether there was a list of required programmes for IPP and terrorism prisoners.

Caroline Corby responded that there was no standard checklist. These were human judgements. But evidence that a prisoner had been through a course could help. Those who denied offences were ineligible for some programmes. Most deniers spent longer in prison than they otherwise would have done, largely because they could not access programmes.

Martin Jones added that six or seven years ago it was true to say that there were IPP prisoners held significantly beyond tariff largely because they could not access programmes. That was no longer the case today. Providing hope for people was crucial, and most people should be released at some point when it was safe to do so.

Neena Samota from St Mary’s University wondered what support had been put in place for new BAME members, in respect of retention.

Caroline Corby responded that drop-out rates were generally low and few people left before the end of their ten year terms. As regards new members joining, there had been an excellent three day training programme and there was a supportive induction process involving observations and mentoring. She chaired the Equality and Diversity Action Group which had worked on ensuring the PB was a welcoming organisation. So far she had heard only positive feedback from the latest cohort of new members.

Martin Jones added that the fact they had brought in so many people from diverse backgrounds at once would help. Also, 43% of the staff in Canary Wharf were from BAME backgrounds and he was sure that helped in changing the culture of the organisation. Finally, the work was so interesting: you were making decisions that made a difference to people’s lives.

Lord Attlee commented on current legislation being discussed regarding convicted murderers who would or could not say where their victims’ bodies could be found. How should they be dealt with?

Caroline Corby responded that PB members would always assume that people had committed the crimes for which they had been convicted. There were other avenues for appeal.

Martin Jones noted that the proposed legislation only stated that PB members had to ‘take (this) into account’, along with all the other evidence. The PB had already issued guidance to members in 2017 which unpicked this question, since it could assist with risk assessment. There was a big difference between someone who did not have the mental capacity to recall this, and a member of a criminal gang who did not know where another gang member might have disposed of the body. Every case was different. But as a rule deliberately keeping a victim in limbo would not be helpful to your case for parole.

Lord Ramsbotham went on to thank the speakers, and wished them well. The next meeting would provisionally take place on March 17th, date and topic to be confirmed.