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The High Court has handed down an important decision regarding the circumstances in which the Parole Board can revisit a direction to release a prisoner. 

The claim was brought by the Secretary of State for Justice (‘SSJ’) against a (purported) decision of the Parole Board to direct the release of Mr Walker (a prisoner, and the Interested Party in these proceedings). Where a prisoner has been recalled to prison, the SSJ must refer their case to the Parole Board. Upon such referral, the Parole Board is to consider whether to direct release. In this case, the Board made a fundamental error of fact in purporting to direct Mr Walker’s release. Historically, in such circumstances, the Board had accepted a ‘re-referral’ from the SSJ and considered the matter again.  In this case, the Board refused to do so.

The SSJ brought his claim on two grounds: (i) the refusal to accept the re-referral was unlawful either because the Board was not functus or, if it were, because there nonetheless existed a power to revisit the decision; (ii) the purported direction to release was irrational and/or procedurally unfair. The Court allowed the challenge on both grounds. However, in doing so the Court clarified that there was no power for the Board to revisit a functus decision (§§29-37, 39).   

Sir James Eadie QC, Jason Pobjoy and Isabel Buchanan acted for the Secretary of State for Justice.  

A copy of the judgment is available here