Letter: Praise for Silcott

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Praise for Silcott

Sir: Damien Pearse states that "the parole board praises Silcott - serving life for the murder of Anthony Smith, a boxer, in 1984 - for being `extremely good in prison' and `not at all a domineering person'. He is congratulated for taking part in a special youth project" (" rubbished by police union", 13 December; letter, 16 December).

In fact these comments are contained in reports to the board: they were not made by the Parole Board.

Mr Pearse goes on to report that Mr Silcott alleged that "a ruling by the parole board that he should not be moved to an open prison as a precursor to release is a `political' decision linked to alleged police pressure over the overturned PC Blackelock conviction". This is not the case. The Parole Board is an independent body.

When the case of a mandatory life sentenced prisoner like Mr Silcott is referred to us, we undertake a detailed risk assessment, and on the basis of that assessment we make a recommendation to the Home Secretary as to whether the prisoner should be kept in closed conditions, moved to open or released on life licence. Because our primary duty is to protect the public, we do not recommend that prisoners be moved to open conditions until we are satisfied that they have addressed the problems which have led them into custody.

In making our risk assessments and recommendations, we look at all reports available to us. These normally include reports from the courts, the Prison and Probation Service and others, but we reach a totally independent decision.

USHA PRASHAR

Chairman

Parole Board

London SW1

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