The announcement that the Secretary of State for Justice has resigned today means another change in this pivotal Government position and we wait to see who will be appointed.
Meanwhile, members will be aware that the outcome of the most recent Court hearing regarding the changes to the parole system imposed by the just-departed Secretary of State for Justice was that the guidance and training issued to staff from July to October 2022 was found to be unlawful. The Court is awaiting further evidence, to submitted by the parties by mid-May, to determine whether to initiate contempt proceedings against any person(s) – for instance, the then Secretary of State or senior figures in HMPPS – and/or whether to give further directions.
HMPPS have responded by issuing further guidance and holding several online briefing events on their latest instructions in recent weeks. Significant questions of professional practice and the impact of these latest changes on member’s workload remain and we will continue to take forward with HMPPS. These include, but are not limited to, the additional workload resulting from further reports staff may be expected to provide the Parole Board with, the change from previously providing a recommendation to the current “professional opinion” and that this should now only be given if the member of staff feels able to do so.
On a separate issue, Napo is also concerned regarding an aspect of the press coverage of two ‘public’ Oral Hearings that have taken place so far, in terms of the use of selective quotes taken from the evidence offered by workers to the Parole Board. We will continue to take make clear our belief that such selective quoting fails to consider not only the wider context but also the fuller evidence provided by the worker involved.
Feedback from Napo members has been vital in raising issues and concerns relating to the parole changes with HMPPS since we were made aware of these changes last summer. As ever, we would be grateful if members could continue to keep us updated with their experiences of the parole system as this new guidance issued becomes part of our practice in the coming weeks and months.