Pa­role Board has no black peo­ple among 240 mem­bers

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Jamie Gri­er­son

The body re­spon­si­ble for de­cid­ing whether pris­on­ers can be re­leased into the com­mu­nity has no black mem­bers out of 240 cur­rently in po­si­tion, it has been re­vealed.

Caro­line Corby, the chair of the Pa­role Board, has said she fears un­con­scious bias could be be­hind the ab­sence of black mem­bers and the low num­ber of mi­nor­ity eth­nic peo­ple.

Corby also said that the board had suf­fered a “loss of con­fi­dence” fol­low­ing the case of John Wor­boys, the black-cab se­rial rapist whom the board had deemed safe to be re­leased af­ter around a decade. The de­ci­sion was later re­versed by the high court.

Corby said she was con­cerned about the lack of di­ver­sity on the board, which con­sists of 240 mem­bers, 13 of whom are of Asian or mi­nor­ity eth­nic back­ground.

She told the BBC: “We’re very keen to have as many peo­ple with a BAME back­ground ap­ply to us as pos­si­ble. We learnt les­sons from our last re­cruit­ment round be­cause we had the same ob­jec­tive and we weren’t suc­cess­ful.”

She said there were not enough BAME ap­pli­cants dur­ing the last re­cruit­ment round and those who did ap­ply did “very poorly” in the first two stages of the five-stage process for “rea­sons we don’t en­tirely un­der­stand”.

“But I think there must have been some kind of un­con­scious bias in those pro­cesses. We’re not go­ing to have those pro­cesses next time around.”

She said it was hard to gauge whether mem­bers were be­ing more risk-averse fol­low­ing the Wor­boys case, but the re­lease rate had dropped from 49% to 42% in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the case and had since risen to 46%, with more ad­journ­ments and de­fer­rals.

Corby said: “It was ob­vi­ously a very dif­fi­cult pe­riod for the board.

“We saw the de­par­ture of our pre­vi­ous chair in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. The board was sub­ject to an un­prece­dented amount of pub­lic­ity … and I think there was a loss of con­fi­dence amongst our­selves a lit­tle bit, per­haps a loss of con­fi­dence in the wider pub­lic, and that is some­thing I am very keen to re­pair.”

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