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Divisional Court gives guidance on Parole Board statutory release test


The High Court today handed down judgment in judicial review proceedings concerning the Parole Board’s decision to direct the early release of Leslie Johnson, a serial child abuser who had been sentenced to an extended determinate sentence.  Nicholas Chapman appeared for the Parole Board.

The court (William Davis LJ and Garnham J) granted judicial review, in circumstances where the Parole Board had concluded that Mr Johnson would continue to pose a serious risk to the public but that he would not abuse any children until after his automatic release date.  The Board did not resist the claim, instead making neutral submissions.

The case has broad significance due to the court’s decision to hand down guidance, at the Parole Board’s request, clarifying the statutory “public protection” test which the Board is required to apply when considering directing the release of a prisoner.

The court confirmed that the statutory test does not involve a balancing exercise but, rather, requires a binary assessment of whether release would result in a more than minimal risk of harm to the public.  It also held that there is no temporal limitation on the period of risk which the Board is tasked with assessing.

The case was only the second in which the Secretary of State for Justice has applied for judicial review of a decision of the Parole Board.  The Secretary of State was represented by Sir James Eadie QC and Jason Pobjoy.

The judgment can be viewed here.

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Nicholas Chapman

Call 2001

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