Offenders do not apply for parole, they legally become eligible to be seen by the Board.
- An offender’s hearing is scheduled according to his or her parole eligibility date.
- The Board’s administration notifies the offender and any registered victims of a pending hearing, and invites them to make submissions.
- The Board requests and receives background information and a parole assessment report from the Department of Corrections.
- Offenders can make a written submission prior to the hearing.
- Victims on the Victim Notification Register can make written and or oral submissions. Oral submissions are heard separately, without the offender present and always at a separate location – not at the prison.
- A panel of the Board meets with the offender and any supporters they may bring. The panel considers all written information, and any oral submissions heard.
- The panel makes a decision. The reasons for the decision in writing are provided to the offender. Every person who was notified of the offender’s pending hearing will be advised of the outcome.
- Registered victims will receive an edited copy of the Board’s reasons for the decision.
Just because an offender is eligible for parole, it does not mean they will be released.
Before the hearing
Offenders are advised of their hearing at least three months in advance by the Board.
All paperwork held by the Board on the offender's case is generally provided to them, in the interests of full disclosure.
However, some information can be withheld on the grounds that it would prejudice the mental or physical health of the offender, or endanger the safety of any person.
The offender is also provided with a form to complete if they wish to have any supporters or legal representation at the hearing.
On the day
Hearings are conducted in the manner of an inquiry. That is, Board members will ask questions directly to the offender.
There is no set length of time for a hearing. Sometimes they can be quite short, but they are generally about half an hour. It depends on what needs to be explored and who is present. Hearings are held either in person in the prison, or by video link with the offender, Corrections staff, supporters and lawyer (with prior Board permission). Victims do not attend offender hearings.
Hearings can also be unattended. This is where the offender is not present, but a hearing is still conducted.
An offender is able to waive their right to attend their hearing but must do this in writing. Even if the offender waives their appearance, the hearing itself will continue. The offender can still make a written submission.
The Board decides who will attend hearings and who will speak. On occasions, the Board does allow media representatives to attend some hearings and report on proceedings.
It is important to note, that when the Board is deliberating only the members and the Board’s administrator are present in the hearing room. All other persons, including the offender, must leave.
Panel members will ask the offender questions which may cover:
- progress in prison
- courses undertaken
- what has been learned
- the offences that brought the offender to prison
- plans if released including employment, accommodation, and high-risk situations
Where the Board has met with registered victims it may report to the offender on what the victim(s) have said in their oral submission.
If the offender has supporters present, the Board may direct questions and invite them to speak. Corrections staff may also provide comment.
Anyone can make a written submission to the Board about an offender, but only registered victims are automatically advised of a pending hearing.
On request they are sent information to help with preparing their submission by the Department of Corrections.
Anyone else who wishes to make a submission about a specific offender, supportive or not, can do so at any time.
A written submission should be brief, written on one side of the paper only, and written or typed clearly.
Immediately following the discussion with the offender, supporters and Corrections staff, the Board will deliberate alone to consider its decision. The Board will then invite the offender and others attending the hearing back to deliver its decision. If the decision is to release, the offender will be told of the release date and conditions that must be adhered to.
Written reasons for the decision will be provided to the offender, normally within a few days.
If parole is declined, the offender and registered victims will be advised of the approximate date for the offender’s next hearing.
Registered victims receive an edited copy of the reasons.
The most important consideration for the Board is community safety. By law, the Board must decide that the offender does not pose an ‘undue risk’ to the safety of the community before parole can be granted.
In assessing undue risk the Board must consider both the likelihood of further offending, and the nature and seriousness of any likely subsequent offending.
Having decided that the offender does not pose an undue risk, the Board must release on parole.
There are cases where the Board’s only role is to impose release conditions. When an offender has reached their statutory release date, they are required by law to be released. The Board’s only role in these cases is to set the conditions, up to six months beyond the sentence end date.
If an offender needs to have an interpreter at their hearing, they need to advise their case manager in advance so one can be arranged.
If an offender wants to be represented by their lawyer at a hearing, in most cases they need to write to the Board asking for permission. The letter needs to explain why they want their lawyer present.
At some hearings the offender is entitled to legal representation without a request having to be made (although the offender must still advise the Board their lawyer is attending).
These cases include:
- recall applications;
- applications and reviews for orders made under section 107 of the Parole Act;
- postponement orders;
- post-release progress hearings.
The offender will need to check with their lawyer to find out whether representation at the hearing may be covered by legal aid. It is the offender's responsibility to ensure their lawyer knows the date, time and place of their hearing. Offenders' legal costs are not met by the Board.
What information does the Board consider to make its decision?
- Details of the offending and offender’s current and previous convictions.
- A parole assessment report completed by the Department of Corrections.
- If the offender were to be released on parole or released on conditions, how they would be managed.
- Summary of facts, sentencing notes and pre-sentence reports.
- Any restorative justice processes undertaken.
- Specialist reports.
- Submissions from victims and police.
- Submissions from the offender.
- Submissions from supporters.
- Intelligence reports.