The decision to release black cab rapist John Worboys after he served his minimum eight-year term has sparked concern among victims and police.
Worboys’ release was decided by a Parole Board panel, after it heard evidence at an oral hearing and was given an number of documents.
The driver had been jailed in 2009 on an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years, which made him eligible for parole at the end of 2017.
:: What is the Parole Board?
The board in an independent body which assesses the risk of serving prisoners in England and Wales to decide who could be suitable for release into the community or to go into open prison conditions.
The board has 204 members and there are an additional 105 members of staff who support them. A typical panel will be made up of three members.
:: How do they make decisions about prisoners and parole?
Prisoners who are serving four years or more, or life or indeterminate sentences, go before the board when they are up for parole.
The board also looks after those who have been jailed before and returned to prison, serving life or indeterminate sentences.
At first, one member will assess the case “at the paper stage”, looking through a dossier provided by the prison sentence and probation staff.
This will include information about the prisoner’s offending history, their behaviour in prison, any courses they may have completed and, in some cases, a psychological assessment.
There may also be victim statements, as well as a statement from the prisoner or their legal representative.
In some cases, the paper stage is as far as it goes, and the single board member makes the decision based on what they have read.
:: What happens in an oral hearing?
The assessment may go beyond the paper stage and the prisoner will attend an oral hearing, with three members of the Parole Board.
Hearings are usually held at the prison where the inmate is held, and other people like the prisoner’s legal representative, their offender manager, or other prison-based staff such as psychologists will likely be present.
The hearings are usually private. Details of Worboys’ hearing have not been disclosed.
:: How does the panel decide?
The panel will weigh up the documentary evidence from the paper stage and what they hear at the oral meeting and discuss the best course of action.
The options available to them include release, recommendation to transfer to open conditions, or no direction to release.
They can also defer the decision for a set period of time.
Members of the board have to consider the impact and nature of the crime, as well as the prisoner’s awareness of the effect on victims, and their behaviour since they have been behind bars when they make their decision.
:: Can the Government overrule them?
The board’s decisions are binding and there is no legal power for the Government to overrule them.
However, the Justice Secretary can step in if there is a recommendation for a prisoner to move from closed to open conditions.
In Worboys’ case, the Justice Secretary cannot intervene as the board has decided he should go into the community to be managed by the probation service, under strict licence conditions.
Parole Board decisions are only usually challenged in court when a prisoner has been denied release.
:: Why was Worboys up for a parole hearing?
Worboys was given an indeterminate sentence when he jailed in 2009, under a scheme introduced for public protection in 2005.
Indeterminate sentences were abolished in 2012 when European judges ruled they breached human rights.
Worboys’ sentence had a minimum term of eight years at his sentencing in 2009.
Although his has now been assessed, there are still thousands of prisoners who were given the indeterminate sentence who have not been given a hearing and are beyond their minimum term.
:: What happens next?
The Crown Prosecution Service is under pressure to bring the other allegations against him to court, which emerged after he was sentenced.
It is believed there could be as many as 100 further victims of Worboys, and the CPS would have to assess each claim for evidence if it is to bring further charges to court.