Osborn v The Parole Board: SC 9 Oct 2013

Three prisoners raised questions as to the circumstances in which the Parole Board is required to hold an oral hearing before making an adverse decision. One of the appeals (Osborn) concerned a determinate sentence prisoner who was released on licence but then recalled to custody. The other appeals (Booth and Reilly) were indeterminate sentence prisoners who have served their minimum terms.
Held: The appeals were allowed and a declaration given that the board breached its duty of procedural fairness to the appellant by failing to offer him an oral hearing, and was accordingly in breach of article 5(4) of the Convention.
The prisoners should have been given oral hearings. To comply with common law fairness requirements, an oral hearing should be provided whenever required by the importance of the issue or the particular facts. The circumstances requiring such a hearing cannot be defined. Such a system would satisfy the Human Rights requirements also. When a paper hearig takes place, the result is provisional, and an oral hearing is not an appeal.
Human Rights law is not a distinct area of law, but should be seen to permeat out legal system.
‘Whether a prisoner’s right to a fair hearing requires the holding of an oral hearing does not depend on his establishing that his application for release or transfer stands any particular chance of success: that approach would not allow for the possibility that an oral hearing may be necessary in order for the prisoner to have a fair opportunity of establishing his prospects of success, and thus involves circular reasoning.’
The court considered the rationale of procedural fairness at common law, and emphasised both the instrumental value of enabling persons to participate in decision-making when they may be able to contribute relevant information or to test other information before the decision-maker, and the ethical value of allowing persons to participate in decision-making which concerns them and is liable to have a significant effect on their rights or interests, where they may have something to say which is relevant to the decision to be taken.


Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Reed


[2013] UKSC 61, [2013] 3 WLR 1020, [2014] HRLR 1, [2013] WLR(D) 374, [2014] 1 All ER 369, UKSC 2011/0147


Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC, WLRD


Parole Board Rules 2004, Parole Board (Amendment) Rules 2009, Parole Board Rules 2011, Criminal Justice Act 2003, European Convention on Human Rights 5(4)


England and Wales


CitedWaite v The United Kingdom ECHR 10-Dec-2002
The claimant had been sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure when a youth. After release on licence, the Parole Board met and revoked that licence without an oral hearing, and in contravention of the rules. He did not dispute the facts . .
CitedRegina v Parole Board ex parte Smith, Regina v Parole Board ex parte West (Conjoined Appeals) HL 27-Jan-2005
Each defendant challenged the way he had been treated on revocation of his parole licence, saying he should have been given the opportunity to make oral representations.
Held: The prisoners’ appeals were allowed.
Lord Bingham stated: . .
At first instanceOsborn v The Parole Board Admn 19-Mar-2010
The claimants complained that decisions had been made by the respondents without them having been first given a right to an oral hearing. They now sought permission to bring judicial review.
Held: Permission was refused. The facts in the . .
Appeal fromOsborn and Another v The Parole Board CA 15-Dec-2010
The three claimants complained that the respondent had made decisions adverse to them as to their release to or recall from parole.
Held: Review was refused. While there was ‘some force in the submission that, contrary to the understanding of . .
At First InstanceReilly, Re Judicial Review QBNI 13-Apr-2010
The claimant said that a decision had been made as to his release from prison but without his having had opportunity to make oral representations.
Held: The board had acted in breach of its common law duty to act fairly, and incompatibly with . .
At first instanceReilly, Re Judicial Review QBNI 10-May-2010
The court had found that the respondent had acted in breach of the claimant’s human rights in making a decision against his release from prison on parole without affording an opportunity to make oral representations. It now considered the remedy. . .
Appeal fromReilly, Re Judicial Review CANI 6-Apr-2011
The applicant had been granted judicial review of a decision by the parole board not to grant his release on parole but without having afforded him an oral hearing. The Board now appealed.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The court followed the . .
CitedThe Sunday Times (No 1) v The United Kingdom ECHR 26-Apr-1979
Offence must be ;in accordance with law’
The court considered the meaning of the need for an offence to be ‘in accordance with law.’ The applicants did not argue that the expression prescribed by law required legislation in every case, but contended that legislation was required only where . .
CitedSanchez-Reisse v Switzerland ECHR 21-Oct-1986
That a detainee may be heard either in person or, where necessary, through some form of representation can be a fundamental procedural guarantee in matters of deprivation of liberty. Article 5(4)was inspired by the English law of habeas corpus. . .
CitedKoendjbiharie v The Netherlands ECHR 25-Oct-1990
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 5-4; Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses award – Convention proceedings
Unsuccessful proceedings brought . .
CitedRegina (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 23-May-2001
A prison policy requiring prisoners not to be present when their property was searched and their mail was examined was unlawful. The policy had been introduced after failures in search procedures where officers had been intimidated by the presence . .
CitedHatton and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 8-Jul-2003
More Night Flights No Infringement of Family Life
The claimants complained that the respondent had acted to infringe their rights. They were residents living locally to Heathrow Airport. They claimed the respondent had increased the number of night flights, causing increased noise, but without . .
CitedA and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No 2) HL 8-Dec-2005
Evidence from 3rd Party Torture Inadmissible
The applicants had been detained following the issue of certificates issued by the respondent that they posed a terrorist threat. They challenged the decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission saying that evidence underlying the . .
CitedGuardian News and Media Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court and Another CA 25-Oct-2011
The claimant newspaper sought to appeal against a refusal by the respondent to disclose papers filed in a case before it. The court considered whether it had jurisdiction to hear an appeal.
Held: Under the 1981 Act no appeal would lie if the . .
CitedGuardian News and Media Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court CA 3-Apr-2012
The newspaper applied for leave to access documents referred to but not released during the course of extradition proceedings in open court.
Held: The application was to be allowed. Though extradition proceedings were not governed by the Civil . .
CitedFaulkner, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice and Another SC 1-May-2013
The applicants had each been given a life sentence, but having served the minimum term had been due to have the continued detention reviewed to establish whether or not continued detention was necessary for the protection of the pblic. It had not . .
CitedThe King v The Chancellor, Masters And Scholars of The University of Cambridge, Or Doctor Bentley’s Case 1748
Fundamental Right to Present a Defence
Fortescue J said: ‘The laws of God and man both give the party an opportunity to make his defence, if he has any. I remember to have heard it observed by a very learned man, upon such an occasion, that even God himself did not pass sentence upon . .
CitedCooper v The Board of Works For The Wandsworth Destrict 21-Apr-1863
Where a land-owner owner had failed to give proper notice to the Board, the Board had, under the 1855 Act, power to demolish any building he had erected and recover the cost from him. The plaintiff said that the Board had used that power without . .
CitedGillies v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 26-Jan-2006
The claimant said that the medical member of the tribunal which had heard his disability claim was biased. The doctor was on a temporary contract and also worked for an agency which contracted directly the Benfits Agency. The court of session had . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v AF AN and AE (No 3) HL 10-Jun-2009
The applicants complained that they had been made subject to non-derogating control orders as suspected terrorists, but that the failure to inform them of the allegations or evidence against them was unfair and infringed their human rights. The . .
CitedRegina v Parole Board, Ex parte Bradley QBD 1990
A Parole Board should scrutinise ever more anxiously whether the level of risk is unacceptable on considering the release of a prisoner, the longer the time the prisoner has spent in prison following the expiry of his tariff. The Board had to carry . .
CitedRegina v Parole Board and Another ex parte Wilson CA 6-May-1992
It was natural justice to allow a discretionary lifer to see the reports which had been prepared for consideration on his application for release on licence. W had been sentenced to life imprisonment for buggery, and was a discretionary life . .
CitedHussain v The United Kingdom ECHR 21-Feb-1996
The determination of a life sentence by the Home Secretary without recourse to a court was unlawful. There had been a violation of article 5(4) because the applicant who had been detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure was unable, after the expiry of his . .
CitedCurley v United Kingdom ECHR 28-Mar-2000
A prisoner was sentenced to be detained during her majesty’s pleasure, but given a tariff which expired in 1987. Reviews of his continued detention did not lead to his release. He complained that the system of reviews by a Parole Board whose . .
CitedHL v United Kingdom ECHR 2004
Lack of Patient Safeguards was Infringement
The claimant had been detained at a mental hospital as in ‘informal patient’. He was an autistic adult. He had been recommended for release by the Mental Health Review Tribunal, and it was decided that he should be released. He was detained further . .
CitedRoose v The Parole Board and Another Admn 16-Jul-2010
If representations made in support of the prisoner’s request for an oral hearing raise issues which place in question anything in the provisional decision which may in practice have a significant impact on the prisoner’s future management in prison . .

Cited by:

CitedWhiston, Regina (on The Application of) SC 2-Jul-2014
The claimant, having been released from prison on licence, objected to the procedure whereby his licence was revoked with no means for him to challenge that decision.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. Article 5(4) did not apply to the particular . .
CitedMoseley, Regina (on The Application of) v London Borough of Haringey SC 29-Oct-2014
Consultation requirements
The claimant challenged a decision of the respondent reducing the benefits under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme reducing Council Tax for those in need, saying that the Council’s consultation had been inadequate.
Held: The consultation was . .
CitedA v British Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland) SC 8-May-2014
Anonymised Party to Proceedings
The BBC challenged an order made by the Court of Session in judicial review proceedings, permitting the applicant review to delete his name and address and substituting letters of the alphabet, in the exercise (or, as the BBC argues, purported . .
CitedZurich Insurance Plc UK Branch v International Energy Group Ltd SC 20-May-2015
A claim had been made for mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos, but the claim arose in Guernsey. Acknowledging the acute difficultis particular to the evidence in such cases, the House of Lords, in Fairchild. had introduced the Special Rule . .
CitedBourgass and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice SC 29-Jul-2015
The Court considered the procedures when a prisoner is kept in solitary confinement, otherwise described as ‘segregation’ or ‘removal from association’, and principally whether decisions to keep the appellants in segregation for substantial periods . .
CitedAustin, Regina (on The Application of) v Parole Board for England and Wales Admn 17-Jan-2022
Parole Board Publication Scheme Unduly Complicated
This claim for judicial review raises important issues about the lawfulness of the Parole Board’s policy and practice in relation to the provision of a summary of a Parole Board decision to victims and victims’ families and the media. The protocol . .
CitedElgizouli v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 25-Mar-2020
Defendants were to face trial in the US, accused of monstrous crimes. The appellant challenged the release of information to the USA by the respondent to support such prosecutions when the death penalty was a possible outcome of a conviction: ‘The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Prisons, Natural Justice, Human Rights

Updated: 07 August 2022; Ref: scu.516313