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Challenge to Parole Board’s Refusal to Grant Release Dismissed

Sarah Sackman
Merrow Golden

Mr Justice Jacobs has dismissed a judicial review challenge to the Parole Board’s decision to refuse a prisoner’s release in circumstances where that prisoner has continued to maintain his innocence in relation to the crime he was convicted of.

In 2004, the Claimant was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 15 years, for the murder of a baby boy.  The Claimant has maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison.  On 27 February 2020, the Board concluded that it was necessary for the protection of the public that the Claimant remained confined.

The Claimant challenged the Board’s decision on the grounds that it was irrational since it had refused release mainly because the Claimant persisted in denying his guilt, placing the prisoner in a catch-22. 

Dismissing the claim, the judge applied the “Oyston guidelines” (R v Parole Board for England and Wales, ex p Oyston [2000] EWCA Crim 3552) concerning how the Parole Board should consider a denial of guilt in determining release. The Court concluded that the Board carried out the appropriate balancing exercise.  Great weight was placed on the denial of guilt and its consequences, but previous authorities show that a denial of guilt can be a determinative factor (at [62]-[63]).  What matters is that the Parole Board does not treat a denial as necessarily conclusive against parole. The Board’s conclusion that the Claimant “may have outstanding risk factors which need addressing” could not, in light of the evidence, be regarded as speculative.  

Sarah Sackman and Merrow Golden appeared for the Parole Board.