HL Deb 04 December 1997 vol 583 c201WA
Lord Strabolgi

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to alter the composition of Parole Board panels considering the release of mandatory life sentence adult prisoners.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The Parole Board is facing a continuing and significant increase in its workload. A very important element of that overall workload is the task of advising Ministers on the progression and release of adult life sentence prisoners convicted of murder. At present, the panels considering these cases comprise four members of the board, always including a judge and a psychiatrist.

By contrast, the panels that consider the release of discretionary life sentence prisoners and those sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure, and those that decide or advise on the release of long term determinate sentence prisoners, comprise only three members. The additional member in mandatory cases incurs costs to the board of around £25,000 annually, and complicates the listing of cases, leading to delay.

We are satisfied, on the advice of both the current chair and recently retired chairman of the Parole Board, that the size of mandatory panels can now safely be reduced from four to three, without risking in any way the quality of advice which Ministers receive. We have asked that these panels should continue to include both a judge and a psychiatrist.