UK Parole System and Getting Parole

What is Parole UK? The original meaning of the word parole was 'word of honour'. The parole system in England and Wales refers to the provisional release of a prisoner from prison.

PAROLE UK: The Parole Board can release prisoners on licence even while a sentence is still ongoing.

In most cases the parole will be a ‘conditional‘ release. That means the Parole Board can recall the prisoner back to prison during the sentence.

Recalling a prisoner back to prison happens most if licence conditions get broken or they commit another offence.

This guide explains about the parole system and getting parole in the United Kingdom.

Find out who can get parole for determinate and indeterminate sentences. There is further advice and information for representing yourself at a hearing. In some cases you may choose to challenge a Parole Board decision.

Those who get imprisoned may be eligible for parole. That means they could leave prison early or get released from custody.

Note: The rules for parole conditions differ in Northern Ireland and in Scotland. Follow different rules to apply for parole if you are a young offender.

Applying for Parole

  1. You can apply for parole yourself if you have a fixed-term prison sentence. The government can apply on your behalf if you have a life sentence.
  2. The Parole Board decides whether you get a hearing. In some cases you may need to represent yourself at the hearing unless you can get legal aid or a solicitor.

What happens after you apply for parole and get released? The UK parole system keeps released prisoners under strict supervision. This situation is usually called being on probation or ‘on licence‘.

Some prisoners might get transferred to an open prison instead. This is sometimes known as ‘open conditions‘. As a rule, open conditions have less security than closed prisons. In general, that means you will not get locked up in a cell.

Note: If your case fails to meet the parole conditions the Parole Board will review it again within 2 years.

Fixed-term Paroles and Extended Sentences

There are two situations whereby you can apply for parole. If you have either:

  • An extended prison sentence.
  • A fixed-term ‘determinate‘ prison sentence of 4 years or more. This is the case providing:
    • The sentence occurred before the 3rd of December 2012.
    • It was for a serious violent or sexual crime committed before the 4th of April 2005.

Note: Your sentence must be for at least 4 years to apply for parole.

Applying for Fixed-term Parole

Prisoners can apply for fixed-term parole up to 6 months before their earliest release date. The prison offender supervisor can provide further information on your parole eligibility date.

Fill in a parole application form from the prison and hand it back to the supervisor. They will then create a file based on:

  • What activities you have done in prison.
  • What you plan to do if you get released.

You can check to see if your file is correct and you can add extra evidence with your own opinions.

After You Apply for Parole

  1. The Parole Board will read the details of your file and decide whether to release you on early probation.
  2. They will either make a decision based on your file or give you a date for a parole hearing.

Note: This part of the parole system can take up to 6 months. You will get a letter with their decision and their reasons for it. In some cases you can make a challenge against the decision.

Life Sentence and Indeterminate Sentences

Prisoners with a life sentence or an indeterminate sentence do not need to do anything. That is because the government will apply for parole on your behalf. They will contact you:

  • 3 years before your tariff runs out (for those serving a 4 years sentence or more).
  • At least 6 months before your tariff runs (for those serving a shorter sentence than 4 years).

Tariff refers to the minimum length of time you got ordered to stay in prison. The judge should have informed you the length of your tariff when you got sentenced.

Note: You may need to represent yourself at the hearing unless you can apply for legal aid or get a solicitor.

After the Government Initiates Parole

  1. You will receive a letter informing you that your case will get considered. There will also be an application form that you must fill out.
  2. You can ask a friend or legal advisor for help filling in the form if you need it.
  3. The prison will create some other documents. Their file will include activities you have done in prison and what you plan to do if you get released early.
  4. You can inspect the file and check the details are correct. You can also add extra evidence of why you should feel you should get released on probation.
  5. The Parole Board decides whether you get released or need a hearing. In some cases you may need to represent yourself at the hearing unless you can get legal aid or a solicitor.

Note: As a rule it takes up to 6 months to get a decision about your particular parole case.

Parole Board Hearings UK

The Parole Board may set up a hearing to help them make a decision. As a rule you will get a hearing if:

  1. The Parole Board thinks you may get released or moved to open prison conditions.
  2. They need more evidence from you than your prison file showed.
  3. The Board feels it would be fair to give you an oral hearing.

What Happens at Parole Hearings UK

Several members of a panel (usually three) will decide whether to release you. They base their decision on the file documents that the prison created. Your prison file includes information such as:

  • Your behaviour in prison and what you plan to do once you get released.
  • Whether you are likely to commit more crime or would be a danger to the public.
  • The reason why you are inside prison and what, if any, previous offences you committed.
  • What comments the judge made when you got sentenced.
  • The victim statement (this may get read during the hearing).
  • Any professional medical, psychiatric, and psychological evidence.

Who Can Attend the Hearing

As a rule you must attend your own Parole Board hearing. But, there could also be other people attending such as:

  • Your solicitor and a prison psychologist.
  • The victim of your crime and the victim liaison officer.
  • Any expert witnesses of the crime.
What Happens after a Parole Board Hearing?

The Parole Board write to you with their decision after the hearing. Their full decision will is usually kept private. In some cases you may be able to challenge the Parole Board hearing decision.

Representing Yourself at a Hearing

In some cases you can get legal aid for your parole review. As a rule it applies to those who get considered for release from a life sentence. But, you will not get legal aid if you are serving a life sentence and getting considered for:

  1. A prison transfer to open conditions (called a ‘pre-tariff review’).
  2. A return back to open conditions (called an ‘advice case’).

Further Advice and Information

The Offender Management Unit at the prison can give you the contact details of the case manager who is handling your case. You can also get help from the Prisoners Advice Service, the Howard League, and the Prison Reform Trust.

Contact the Parole Board for further advice. You can also get help and support for family and friends of prisoners.

Parole Board UK
Telephone: 0203 880 0885
Check call charges in the United Kingdom.

Challenge a Parole Board Decision

In fact prisoners cannot appeal against a Parole Board decision. But in some cases they can apply for a judicial review. Your solicitor can apply for a judicial review if:

  • You think important information was not shown to the Parole Board.
  • You think your application dealt with inappropriately (e.g. the decision was unreasonable or unlawful).

Note: Check to see if you can get legal aid to help cover some of the costs of challenging a Parole Board decision.

The Parole System: Getting Parole in the United Kingdom