Prisoners are initially considered by a paper panel. This is the first stage of the process whereby the prisoner’s dossier is considered in depth usually by one of our legal representatives. The legal representative will then take detailed instructions before putting forward representations to the parole board. We will advise the client on his options in relation to his/her parole to enable the client to make an informed decision about the way forward with his/her sentence.
At this stage the prisoner’s case may not result in an oral hearing as sometimes it may be more appropriate to defer a case or conclude it on the papers depending on the circumstances. A large number of prisoners have their cases considered by way of an oral hearing.
Parole is a 26 week process and we would normally become involved just before this process starts to advise the client on this process and ensure necessary steps are taken as early as possible. It is important that we are instructed early enough to advise them appropriately so that we may deal with any sentence progression matters that may affect their parole. There is an opportunity to challenge a decision by requesting an oral hearing if one is not granted.
Our legal representatives, where they feel it is necessary, will instruct independent psychologists, psychiatrists and other experts to support the prisoner’s application. This is a useful tool which enables the hearing to be conducted fairly.
The second stage of the parole hearing is the oral hearing (see below for details). Please note that the legal representative that conducts the paper review may not be the same as the legal representative that conducts the oral hearing.