Irwin Mitchell lands victory against Parole Board

Irwin Mitchell has scored a landmark High Court victory, resulting in the ruling that the Parole Board of England and Wales is not sufficiently independent from the Government to decide whether prisoners are lawfully detained.

The case, brought by four prisoners, questioned whether the Parole Board should determine detainees’ sentences due to its ties with the Government.

Irwin Mitchell’s public law team advised lead claimants Michael Brooke and Gagik Ter-Ogannisyan, arguing that under Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) the board cannot choose the length of detention. As the court recorded, Article 5(4) provides: “Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.”

Lord Justice Hughes and Mr Justice Treacy questioned whether the Parole Board constituted a ‘court’ as required by the ECHR. Several factors led to the judges deciding that it did not, including the Secretary of State for Justice’s power to give directions on what should be taken into account by the board when discharging its functions.

The court held that this was “not inconsistent with independence”, but “in practice, does create the appearance of want of independence”.

The Secretary of State has been granted leave to appeal.

Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Fordham QC led for the Parole Board, while Monica Carss-Frisk QC, also of Blackstone, led for the Secretary of State. The Treasury Solicitor advised both defendants.