Executive release is a process by which the secretary of state can essentially bypass the Parole Board and release a prisoner on the papers without the necessity of a hearing.
Examples where this is utilised is with licence recall. When an inmate is recalled on his licence he/she can make representations. They can do that by themselves or via a solicitor. We make written representations commonly asking that the matter be directed to oral hearing. In some circumstances for straight release on the papers.
A single member of the parole board considers the case on the papers and makes a decision. It will be one of 3 options. 1. not to release or direct to hearing 2. direct to hearing 3. release on papers.
If the case is directed to hearing it is listed usually in around 3-6 months time. The parole board convenes and considers whether the risk factors can be safely managed in the community back on licence. This is at a hearing, the Offender Manager and Offender supervisor give evidence and any other witness such as a psychologist. The inmate is questioned by the parole board directly.
Executive release is a separate process and runs alongside the parole process. If there is “overwhelming support for release” by the Offender manager and supervisor then the offender manager can put in paperwork asking that the inmate be considered for executive release. The Secretary of State (but in reality a senior manager at PPCS – the public and protection casework section) reviews the case on the papers and makes a decision. If they decide the risk can be managed, the paperwork is signed off and the inmate is released. The parole process halts and the hearing if scheduled is cancelled. The inmate in short never goes before the parole board and is simply released on the papers. (The parole board already having looked at their case on the papers and having declined to release on the papers!)
Note: A solicitor cannot make representations for executive release and neither can the inmate. It is the application of the offender manager only and in reality if an offender manager submits their report supporting release the public protection casework section will submit an application for executive release, provided the prison are also supporting release and the custodial behaviour is good.
In reality often in recall proceedings there is no report from the prison in the early stages so prisoners can find themselves put forward for executive release and then refused it because enquiries are subsequently made with the prison and if their behaviour is not good and they have nickings or positive drug tests they are refused. Also, offender managers have also been known to withdraw their support/application for executive release if they are informed by the offender supervisor in prison that behaviour has deteriorated.
Note: Lifers cannot be executively released and neither can IPP’s. Only determinate sentence prisoners and EDS can be considered for executive release. Re-called IPP’s can apply for straight release on the papers before a single member of the parole board however and are now not guaranteed an oral hearing as they were in the past because of their ability to apply for release before a single member on the papers. Re-called lifers cannot apply for straight release on the papers and they are therefore guaranteed a direction to oral hearing.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding executive release. Inmates think it is their application and ask solicitors to ‘get me executively released’. Offender managers don’t realise it is their application and therefore don’t request it. Many people don’t know that IPP and Lifer recalls can’t be executively released and I receive multiple letters from inmates in that position confused about why they aren’t being put forward for it. The reason for the confusion is because executive release used to in the past be a process used very exceptionally. In a bid to free up hearing space however and clear up the back log of people waiting for hearings in particular lifers and IPP’s who are long past target month date (in which the MOJ then has to pay them compensation) executive release is being much more frequently utilised. I would urge the MOJ to publish the statistics of how many are recalled because in my experience it is very high which must question why a caseworker has the power to authorise release without an inmate appearing before an experienced parole board who can properly assess risks. I feel this is particularly shocking when a parole board member has already directed the case to hearing and set out directions for reports. For a caseworker to cancel that hearing on the papers over the parole board’s head I feel is unjustified. I have even had hearings cancelled and inmates executively released the day before the hearing when money has been spent preparing the case, obtaining reports etc. What possible justification for that can there be, especially when the index offence was a violent one?