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Cases and Eligibility

Which offenders come before the Board?

The Board considers the cases of offenders who are:

  • serving a long-term prison sentence (more than 2 years), or
  • subject to an extended supervision order.

Long-term sentences

The Board’s work concerns offenders serving long-term sentences of imprisonment.  Long-term sentences are those where the offender:

  • was sentenced before the Parole Act 2002 came in to force to a sentence of imprisonment of more than 12 months, or
  • has been sentenced after the Parole Act 2002 came in to force to a sentence of imprisonment of more than 24 months.

The Parole Act 2002 came into force on 30 June 2002.

Offenders sentenced to life imprisonment or to preventive detention are considered to be serving long-term sentences.

Short-term sentences

Offenders serving a short-term sentence of imprisonment are not seen by the Board.  These offenders are required by law to be released after serving half their sentence.

On 1 October 2007 there was a change in the law regarding home detention.  Offenders who were sentenced to a short-term sentence before 1 October 2007, and who were given leave to apply for home detention by the Judge that sentenced them, could continue to make an application to the Board to be considered for home detention.

However offenders sentenced on or after 1 October 2007 are not able to apply to the Board for home detention.  Home detention is now a separate sentencing option for the courts and not a consideration for the Board.

More information about the law changes is available in the ‘Law changes on 1 October 2007’ area of this website.

When does the Board see an offender?

The Parole Act 2002 sets out when an offender must be seen by the Board and what processes the Board must follow in conducting hearings.  Under the Parole Act:

  • Offenders serving determinate (fixed term) long-term sentences (more than two years) become eligible to be considered by the Board for parole after serving one-third of their sentence. This is their parole eligibility date (PED). This does not mean they will automatically be released but, by law, they must be seen by the Board.
  • Offenders serving life sentences become eligible for parole after serving 10 years imprisonment, unless they have been given a minimum non-parole period by the Judge that sentenced them. If they have been given a minimum non-parole period, they become eligible for parole once they have reached that point.
  • Offenders serving sentences of preventive detention are required, at sentencing, to be given a minimum non-parole period of at least five years.  They become eligible for parole once they have reached that point.

Eligibility for parole is no guarantee of release – it simply means an offender is entitled to appear before the Board.  Under the Parole Act 2002 offenders can be kept in prison  to serve their entire sentences, or until the Board is satisfied they no longer pose an undue risk to the safety of the community.

Offenders who were sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act 1985 are still subject to that legislation.  (Note that under this Act a long-term sentence is 1 year or more).

  • Offenders serving long-term sentences (more than one year) but not classified as Serious Violent Offenders become eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence.
  • Offenders classified as Serious Violent Offenders do not become eligible for parole, but must be released after serving two-thirds of their sentence (this is known as an offender’s final release date), unless they are the subject of an order under section 107 of the Parole Act to keep them in prison.
  • Offenders serving sentences of life or preventive detention become eligible for parole after serving 10 years, unless they have been given a minimum non-parole period by the Judge who sentenced them.  If they have been given a minimum non-parole period, they become eligible for parole once they have reached that point.

Types of cases

Parole is when an offender is released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community on conditions, supervised by the Department of Corrections' Community Probation and Psychological Service.  The conditions of release are detailed elsewhere on this website.

The Board may not release an offender on parole unless it is satisfied that the offender does not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community.  There is more about risk assessment in the ‘Functions and Guiding Principles’ area of this website.

An offender does not "apply" for parole but becomes eligible to be considered for release on parole after they have served an amount of time (specified by law) in prison.  The Board is required by law to consider an offender for parole at least once in every 12 months after they become eligible.  The offender may be seen sooner than the 12 month period if:

  • the Board requests that the offender is seen sooner, or
  • the offender is required by law to be released within the next 12 month period, or
  • the offender makes an application to the Board to be heard sooner than the scheduled 12 month date.  If the application is successful the offender will be given a new hearing date for their case (the new date is not an indication of whether release will be granted).

If granted parole, an offender will be released on standard and special conditions and may be recalled to prison if these conditions are not followed.

Parole (early referral) - offenders may apply to the Chairperson of the Board for an early referral for a hearing before they would normally become eligible.  Under section 25 of the Parole Act 2002, they must cite "exceptional circumstances" with the Chairperson having the discretion to refer the matter to a Board to consider.

Postponement Orders can be made when the Board considers an offender will not be suitable for release on parole at the next scheduled hearing. Their next parole hearing can be postponed for up to three years, depending on the type of sentence they are serving.

Post-release progress hearings can be held if the Board thinks it will be necessary to monitor how well the offender is complying with their release conditions.  There is more about this in the ‘Release and recall’ area of this website.

Release at Statutory Release Date - If the Board is hearing a case for the release of an offender on the date at which they must (by law) be released then the Board's only role is to set their conditions of release.

Compassionate Release - On referral from the Chairperson, the Board considers applications for compassionate release from offenders who are either seriously ill and unlikely to recover, or who have recently given birth to a child.  If granted compassionate release, an offender will be subject to release conditions and may be recalled to prison if these conditions are not followed.

Variation and Discharge applications occur when an offender or a probation officer applies to the Board for the conditions of the offender’s release to be changed.  These applications include any applications received for the imposition of special conditions for  Extended Supervision Orders.

Recalls - The Board considers applications for the recall of offenders (who have already been released) to continue serving their sentences in prison.  This can happen when an offender fails to comply with the conditions of their release and on a number of other grounds.  An application for recall can be made by the offender’s Probation Officer, the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections (for offenders sentenced to life imprisonment or preventative detainees) or by the Commissioner of Police.

Review of Board Decisions occurs when an offender applies to have the decision made at their Board hearing reviewed. This application must be made in writing within 28 days of the decision.

The grounds for a review are that the Board:

  • failed to comply with the procedures set out in the Parole Act and any regulations made under it; or
  • made an error of law; or
  • failed to comply with a policy of the Board developed under section 109(2)(a), which resulted in unfairness to the offender; or
  • based its decision on erroneous or irrelevant information that was material to the decision reached; or
  • acted without jurisdiction.

Extended Supervision Orders – Setting of Conditions. The Department of Corrections is able to apply to court for intensive supervision of eligible offenders convicted of certain sexual offences, for up to 10 years after they have been released from prison. If an order is granted by the court, the Department may then apply to the Board for special conditions to be imposed. These can include:

  • conditions similar to "residential restrictions" for the first 12 months of an extended supervision order, where an offender is electronically monitored and may not leave their home, or approved address, without the permission of their probation officer
  • restricting areas and places an offender may go
  • prohibiting contact with any person or class of person (eg people under the age of 16).

Release at Final Release Date – is applicable to offenders sentenced before 30 June 2002.  The Board must release these offenders at their Final Release Date and impose conditions on their release, unless an order under s107 (see below) of the Parole Act 2002 has been applied for or made.

Section 107 Orders can be made when the Department of Corrections applies to the Board to have an offender, sentenced before 30 June 2002, kept in prison beyond their Final Release Date (two-thirds of their sentence). The Board must be satisfied that the offender will commit a specified offence between the final release date (see above) and the applicable release date (the date on which the offender can no longer be kept in prison). 

Section 107 Reviews
If the Board makes an order under s107 of the Parole Act 2002 it must be reviewed at least once every 6 months.