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A shake-up of the Parole Board promised by Dominic Raab could see criminals forced to prove they are not a risk to the public in order to be released.
On Tuesday, the Justice Secretary hinted that he wanted to end the Parole Board’s presumption in favour of release unless offenders posed a risk. Instead, he signalled it could be reversed to adopt a more precautionary approach, where it is presumed the prisoner remains in jail if that is judged a safer option.
His comments in his first appearance before the Commons justice committee followed the recall to prison of double child-murderer Colin Pitchfork for “concerning” behaviour, which included approaching young girls in the street.
He said: “For high-risk cases...one of the interesting things I want to address is that effectively the presumption drives in the direction of release unless it is demonstrated there is a risk. I think there is a good question about whether the presumption should be that way.”
Citing the importance of the precautionary principle in climate change policy, he said: “There is a very good question about with highest risk offenders, there ought to be changes that reflect that [principle].”
In an article for The Telegraph, Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, made a similar argument - saying that the Parole Board should consider whether it would be “safer for the offender to stay” in prison, rather than the presumption for release.
A major review of the Parole Board is under way that could see it renamed to refocus it on public protection, as well as making hearings open to victims and the public to provide greater transparency.
Pledge to reverse slump in rape prosecution rates
Mr Raab also said that in rape cases, the “pendulum had swung a bit too much” in favour of the suspect rather than the victim, as he pledged to reverse the slump in prosecution rates.
He said the turning point had been the case of Liam Allan, who was cleared after texts showed he was innocent.
But Mr Raab backed the principles behind Operation Soteria, a police initiative that shifts the focus of investigations on to the actions and past behaviour of suspects, rather than investigating the credibility of victims.
“We need to give the whole system confidence to really be focused on driving forward robustly based prosecutions. That’s where Soteria really adds value,” he said.
Mr Raab also signalled an overhaul of the Human Rights Act to prevent foreign criminals using article 8’s right to a family life to prevent or delay their deportation.
He also said he wanted prisons to rethink their approach to drug treatment where the use of methadone, which was hard to quit, could be replaced by “abstinence based drug rehabilitation.”