Great Expectations

Written 30th June 2016 by Olliers Solicitors

A little after the last time England won a major football tournament, a new body called the Parole Board for England and Wales was established.  It will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in around a year’s time.

What is Parole?

The modern concept of parole was pioneered in the mid-nineteenth century by a Scottish Royal Navy captain, Alexander Maconochie, who was superintendent of the British penal colonies in Norfolk Island in Australia. He developed a plan to prepare prisoners for eventual return to society that involved progression earned through good behaviour, labour and study and ultimately led to liberty outside of prison conditional on compliance with rules. Breach of those rules would result in a return to prison.

Two decades after Maconochie’s innovation, Great Expectations, a novel by Charles Dickens was published.  One of the key characters is an escaped convict called Magwitch who is deported to Australia for life.  It is not clear whether Magwitch was an early beneficiary of Maconochie’s new idea of parole but he is able to return to England and plays a pivotal role in the expectations of Pip, a poor working-class boy who tries to reinvent himself as a gentleman. 

The Parole Board

Modern-day Magwitches are subject to the parole system which is administered by the Parole Board for England and Wales.  Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Justice appointed Nick Hardwick, an outspoken former Chief Inspector of Prisons as the new Chair of the Parole Board. There are high expectations of both Hardwick and the Parole Board’s new Chief Executive Officer, Martin Jones, to deliver a parole system which works better for prisoners and the public.  

Great Expectations – Parole in 2016 Conference

Next month, Nick Hardwick and Martin Jones will join a panel of experts at a special event, Great Expectations – Parole in 2016 and Beyond which will take stock of the current parole system and look into the future:

  • Will anything change for IPP prisoners in 2016?
  • Is the Parole Board sufficiently independent?
  • Should prisoners be able to contribute to the work of the Parole Board?

The event will take place at Doughty Street Chambers in London on 18 July 2016. If you wish to book further details can be found here.

Andrew Sperling – Prison Law Specialist Solicitor 

Andrew Sperling is a parole specialist Solicitor-Advocate with Olliers Solicitors.  He was formerly Chair of the Association of Prison Lawyers and worked for the Parole Board during 2014 and 2015. 

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