Law Report: Prisoner can see reports on his case: Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department and another, Ex parte Prem Singh - Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Evans and Mr Justice Morland), 20 April 1993

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When a young offender sentenced to detention during Her Majesty's pleasure becomes an adult, he should be regarded as if he had been sentenced to a disretionary life sentence and is entitled to see the material which is before the parole board on a review of his case.

The Divisional Court quashed the parole board's decision not to recommend the applicant's release and declared that he was entitled, subject to public interest immunity, to see all reports before the parole board.

The applicant was convicted of the murder of a 72-year-old woman in 1973 when he was aged 15. He was sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure under section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. By 1990 he had served the punitive or 'tariff' part of his sentence. He was released on licence in 1990 but in March 1991 he was arrested in relation to offences of dishonesty. His licence was revoked and he was recalled because he had lied to his supervising officers and because of the criminal charges. On 19 December 1991 the parole board, which had papers relating to the new offences, decided not to recommend his release on licence.

The new offences never came to trial because the indictments were tendered late. The applicant challenged the board's decision on the ground, among others, that he was entitled to see all the material before the board.

Edward Fitzgerald (Rodney King, Bristol) for the applicant; Guy Sankey QC (Treasury Solicitor) for the Home Secretary and parole board.

LORD JUSTICE EVANS said that the applicant made good his claim that natural justice entitled him to see, subject to any claim for public interest immunity, all reports before the parole board unless there was binding authority to the contrary.

R v Parole Board, Ex parte Wilson (1992) QB 740 decided that there was a difference between the rights of the discretionary and mandatory life prisoners. The applicant should be regarded as equivalent to a discretionary life prisoner. Therefore the decision in Payne v Lord Harris of Greenwich (1981) 1 WLR 754 did not preclude the court from holding that the applicant was entitled in fairness and justice to see the material placed before the parole board in December 1991. Mr Justice Morland agreed.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister.