Pa­role law change would ben­e­fit jus­tice

The Advertiser - - OPINION - ROCCO PER­ROTTA

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

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