In September 2013 the Supreme Court decided in the case of Osborn Booth and Reilly that far more prisoners should be entitled to an oral hearing before the Parole Board. Since then, the Parole Board has struggled to ensure that parole hearings can take place on time. Long delays have been experienced by most prisoners waiting for parole hearings. The waiting game is very difficult to bear. Many have worked extremely hard to reduce their risk and to prepare release plans. They have been left waiting for months on end for their hearings to take place, experiencing uncertainty, anxiety and frustration. Many could have safely been released several months earlier, freeing up prison places and beginning their resettlement in the community.
While it is not possible to turn back time and to get those months of liberty back, there is a potential remedy which might provide some relief to those prisoners.
Lifer/IPP Detention Reviews
Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights provides prisoners who are serving indeterminate sentences (lifers or IPPs) with a right to a speedy review of their detention after they have served their tariff period.
There is also a legal duty to provide timely pre-tariff expiry hearings for indeterminate sentenced prisoners who are looking to progress to open conditions.
Compensation for Delayed Parole Board Hearings
Breach of these rights or legal duties may give a right to compensation. Prisoners who are serving indeterminate sentences whose parole hearings have been delayed may be eligible to make a claim for ‘damages’ (compensation) against the Parole Board.
Prisoners who were released after a delayed hearing need to show that it is more likely than not that they would have been released if their hearing had happened on time.
Prisoners who were not released after a delayed hearing may still be entitled to compensation if their hearing was delayed by three months or more and they (or their legal representatives) did not cause the delay.
Prisoners who were recommended for open conditions at their pre-tariff hearing may be entitled to compensation if their hearing was delayed and they (or their legal representatives) did not cause the delay. It is likely that they will need to show that the hearing was delayed by three months or more.
Claims for compensation for breaches of the Human Rights Act will normally need to be made within one year of the parole decision letter.
How Much Compensation Could Prisoners Receive?
There are two cases which provide guidance on compensation. The case of Faulkner sets a guideline rate of £650 per month for delayed release. The case of Sturnham sets a guideline rate of £50 per month for other delayed hearings. There is no published guideline rate for pre-tariff expiry open conditions delays but it is likely that a similar rate of £50 per month will apply.
Legitimate claims will usually be settled by the Parole Board without the need for court proceedings.
Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Prison Lawyers England and Wales
Olliers will advise prisoners and ex-prisoners who believe that they have a legitimate claim for damages to pursue their claim and will assist them to do so. They should write to the Prison Law Department, Olliers Solicitors, Freepost, NEA 13621, Manchester, M3 9ZL.