§ Mr. McNamara
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) to what extent a prisoner's insistence of innocence is taken into account when deciding whether to grant parole; 
(2) on how many occasions he has rejected the advice given by the Parole Board to grant parole to a prisoner who has maintained his innocence since 1995. 
§ Beverley Hughes
[holding answer 17 April 2002]: Denial of guilt is not of itself a bar to the release of prisoners from custody. The assessment of the prisoner's current level of risk is the pre-eminent factor in determining whether he/she may be granted parole. Although denial makes it harder to conduct a risk assessment, it should still be possible to make one, taking into account, among other things, the prisoner's attitudes and behaviour during sentence. The Prison Service has to assume that the prisoner was rightly convicted. Prisoners who maintain their innocence are advised to contact the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission who are responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
Information on the reasons why a Parole Board recommendation has been rejected by the Secretary of State is not collated centrally and would incur disproportionate cost. Since 1998, the Secretary of State has not rejected any recommendation for release on parole licence.