Dominic Raab made the ‘difficult job almost impossible’ of the Parole Board | Prisons and probation

Dominic Raab has been accused by a senior parole board official of doing a ‘difficult if not impossible job’ after making sweeping policy changes without notice, newly unearthed documents show.

Parole Board members also said the Justice Secretary would have to increase the number of prison places by 800 each year if he were to impose major changes.

The revelations emerged in documents given to the Prison Reform Trust under freedom of information laws. The charity has requested copies of communications between the chair of the parole board, Caroline Corby, its chief executive, Martin Jones, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

In June, the board objected to a decision by Raab to bar psychologists, prison staff and probation officers from telling the parole board if they believe prisoners should be released.

In the old system, parole boards reviewing parole applications received reports that included risk assessments and recommendations from professionals who had worked with the inmate.

Last month, however, the system was changed by Raab so that the parole board no longer receives recommendations from state-appointed officials.

After receiving notification of the planned changes, Jones or Corby – the redacted documents do not reveal who – emailed the MoJ directly.

“I am sorry to cut abruptly, but I must say that it is extremely difficult and very disappointing that the Parole Board is the last to hear about important decisions which go to the very heart of the difficult decisions we are asked to make. take. This makes the already difficult work of our members almost impossible,” the senior council representative wrote.

Raab said he changed the risk assessment rules because there was a risk that separate reports, whether from psychiatrists or probation officers and those managing risk, would give conflicting recommendations.

The Parole Board is responsible for deciding when to release offenders who face a life sentence, an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public, extended sentences and certain recall sentences .

Raab has forced a number of changes to the system this year after public outcry over the decision to release double child killer and rapist Colin Pitchfork from prison and London taxi driver and rapist John Worboys.

In a separate document, the heads of the parole board told Justice Department officials that proposals to strengthen the powers of the justice secretary to block parole board decisions would mean there would have an increased need for 800 prison places every year.

A May letter sent by the board to the Department of Justice said: ‘It seems inevitable to us that the higher the bar is raised by the release test, the greater the chance that hearings will lengthen and the number of prisoners referred to security for release will be reduced.

“If our release rate went from 25% to 20%, that would increase the prison population by about 800 places a year.”

Raab’s in-depth review proposed that all offenders serving an indeterminate sentence be subject to a revised parole board release test “to ensure that the protection of the public is always the paramount consideration and a new power for Ministers to block the release of the most dangerous offenders in the interest of public safety”.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: ‘These documents give us a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes chaos that Dominic Raab’s cavalier approach to changes to the parole system has caused. They reinforce the suspicion that some of these changes were driven solely by a personal obsession with the political inconvenience created by high-profile cases.

“These documents show changes that are unwarranted, unprincipled and ill-prepared – it’s no wonder the people who have to implement them are angry.”

A government source said: ‘This only strengthens the case for reforming a parole process which has strayed from its number one priority, which is to protect the public from dangerous criminals.’

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “We are overhauling the parole system to make protecting the public from dangerous criminals its number one priority.

“Our reforms will uphold the rights of victims, make public safety the paramount factor in all parole decisions and introduce ministerial oversight for the release of the most serious offenders – putting victims first, reducing crime and making our streets safer.”

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