Parole law change would benefit justice
LAST week the Government introduced a Bill into Parliament which, if it becomes law, will bring about a substantial change to South Australia’s parole laws. The headlinegrabbing change is the removal of the Government from the decision-making process regarding parole for prisoners serving a mandatory life sentence (for murder).
This is a change which has been welcomed by most, if not all, of the interested parties. These include the Parole Board, SA Police, the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights and the Law Society.
The current system sees recommendations for release by the Parole Board go to the Governor. The law requires the Parole Board, in determin- ing the application, to give paramount consideration to the safety of the community.
The Parole Board undertakes an exhaustive process with respect to each application. It conducts extensive interviews and considers a plethora of material and information, including the views of the victim’s family/associates. The Board will not recommend release unless it is satisfied the prisoner will not be a threat to community safety.
The longstanding convention is that the Governor will act on the advice of the government. This means that the government, in effect, has the final say as to whether the prisoner is to be released.
The Governor does not give reasons for refusing parole. Putting aside the obvious undesirability of a prisoner not knowing why their application has failed, there is clearly no transparency in the system.
It therefore lends itself to the criticism that the govern- ment is not giving proper consideration to the application for release. The concern is that the government may make the decision based on not losing the support of its voters.
The suggestions in the media that the government is the best body to make these decisions because it is account- the last 14 occasions the Board has recommended release. It does appear that justice is not being seen to be done.
The Government Bill makes the newly created Parole Review Commissioner the final decision-maker. The Commissioner must be a former high-ranking judge. I