HC Deb 16 December 1992 vol 216 cc218-9W
Sir John Wheeler

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will make a statement about the changes in the procedures for reviewing the cases of persons sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I intend to bring the procedures applying to prisoners subject to a mandatory life sentence more closely into line with those which, since 1 October 1992, have applied to prisoners who are either "discretionary life sentence prisoners" as defined in section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 or prisoners who have been certified under paragraph 9 of schedule 12 to that Act as prisoners to whom section 34 would have been applied if it had been in force at the time that they were sentenced. These new arrangements will also apply to any prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment for an offence for which life imprisonment is the maximum penalty who are not "discretionary life sentence prisoners" and to any who have not been certified under paragraph 9 of schedule 12.

The effect of these changes will be that in respect of all Parole Board reviews of the cases of mandatory lifers that commence in their local establishment after or on 1 April 1993, subject only to exceptions that may be necessary to safeguard the interests of third parties or the welfare of prisoners, or where disclosure would otherwise be against the public interest, all the papers that are before the board will be made available to those prisoners, in advance of the board's consideration. They will also be provided with the reasons for Parole Board recommendations and ministerial decisions regarding release. An implementation date of 1 April 1993 has been chosen in order to give Prison Service staff sufficient time to arrange for the necessary preparation and disclosure of the relevant papers to prisoners and for the Parole Board to provide the necessary training for its members.