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Prisoner Recalled From Community Release On Two Previous Occasions Fails In Challenge Of Decision Not To Release Him On Licence

A prisoner, Dean Ryan, challenged a decision of the Parole Board which determined that he should not be released from prison on licence. Mr Ryan who had previously been in closed prison conditions argued that the Board had failed in giving the correct weight to certain aspects of his case. This included his risk of re-offending and the completion of the coursework which had been assigned to prepare him for release. 

On the 10th of December 2020 the Parole Board decided that he should move to an open prison rather than to the community on licence. It was considered that Mr Ryan having been convicted of murder, was still a high-level risk. It was considered that the petitioner had been recalled on two previous occasions after being released into the community. The first recall occurred as he committed an offence which was serious in nature and involved dishonesty. The second was for sexual offences against two women. 

Social workers suggested that the petitioner’s risk could be manged. However, it was recommended that he move to the open estate being release into the community. It was also considered that both the recalls had occurred after he had completed coursework designed to provide him with the skills to prepare him for release into the community. 

It was submitted on behalf of the petitioner that the decision made by the board was irrational and there had been not adequate reasoning for determining that he should not be released to the community. It was argued that not enough consideration had been given to the completion of the petitioner’s Constructs Groupwork programme. Also, too much consideration had been placed upon his high risk of re-offending. 

Lord Summers said: “The Parole Board considered that his conduct exhibited ‘poor decision making’. The concluding line of the [relevant] paragraph acknowledges that his relapses could be explained by over confidence. But the Parole Board expresses the concern that whatever might be said in mitigation ‘bad decisions’ were ‘consciously made’.”

He stated: “When this paragraph is set in its context and the petitioner’s knowledge of how the system of release works is taken into account there can be no doubt why he was not permitted to move directly to the community. It is evident that the Parole Board thought that if his rehabilitation had failed after he had been supported in the open estate, it was not reasonable to think he would fare any better if he went directly back to the community.”

In considering the groupwork programme, Lord Summers stated: “While the petitioner is to be congratulated on his completion of the programme the final decision lies with the Parole Board. The option it chose was one that was reasonably open to it. The Parole Board is an expert body and was not bound to follow the social workers’ preference. Its decision rests on comprehensible and rational reasons. In essence it decided that to move the petitioner directly into the community was a more risky approach than moving him to the open estate.”

In concluding Lord Summers stated: “I acknowledge that the petitioner remains in prison long after the punitive element in his sentence has come to an end and such a state of affairs requires to be justified by the clearest possible considerations. Whether such a justification exists depends on the facts. In this case as the Parole Board acknowledges there is a compelling reason why he remains in prison so long after the punishment part for his murder conviction has expired. That reason is to be found in his conduct when previously released.”

 

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