Roberts v Parole Board: HL 7 Jul 2005

Balancing Rights of Prisoner and Society

The appellant had been convicted of the murder of three police officers in 1966. His tariff of thirty years had now long expired. He complained that material put before the Parole Board reviewing has case had not been disclosed to him.
Held: The appeal failed (by a majority). The court should focus on the need of the Parole Board to carry out its work balancing the rights of the prisoner and the needs of society.
Lord Carswell said: ‘The present case is a classic instance of weighing up competing interests. The appellant’s interest in presenting his case effectively with sufficient knowledge of the allegations made against him is clear and strong. The informant has a compelling interest in being protected from dangerous consequences which might ensue if any indication leaked out which could lead to his identification. Thirdly, there is the public interest in ensuring that the Parole Board has all proper material before it to enable it to decide which prisoners are safe to release from prison. Having balanced these interests, I conclude that the interests which I have outlined of the informant and the public must prevail over those of the appellant, strong though the latter may be. I emphasise, however, that my conclusions relating to the powers of the Parole Board to use the SAA procedure and their compatibility with article 5(4) are a decision in principle, for that was all that was before the House. We were not asked, nor were we in a position to decide, whether it was proper in the instant case of the appellant. I accept that there may well be cases in which it would not be sufficiently fair to be justifiable and each case will require consideration on its own facts.’
The withholding of material was a clear breach of accepted rules of natural justice. The special advocate procedure had severe shortcomings. The statute made no provision for the procedure adopted, and it was unlawful Lord Steyn: ‘it is a formalistic outcome to describe a phantom hearing involving a special advocate (as directed by the Board) as meeting minimum standards of fairness. In truth the special advocate procedure empties the prisoner’s fundamental right to an oral hearing of all meaningful content.’ (Lord Bngham and Lord Steyn dissenting).
Lord Bingham said, in relation to procedural unfairness: ‘The principles have been set out in many cases of high authority, with greater elegance, but I would summarise them as follows. (i) An administrative body is required to act fairly when reaching a decision which could adversely affect those who are the subject of the decision.(ii) This requirement of fairness is not fixed and its content depends upon all the circumstances and, in particular, the nature of the decision which the body is required to make.(iii) The obligation of fairness to which I refer can be confined by legislation and, in particular, by rules of procedure, provided that the language used makes its effect clear and, in the case of secondary legislation it does not contravene the provisions of the [ECHR] Convention . . ‘

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Woolf, Lord Steyn, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Carswell
[2005] UKHL 45, [2005] 2 AC 738, [2005] HRLR 38, [2005] UKHRR 939, [2006] 1 All ER 39, [2005] RPC 10, [2005] 3 WLR 152
Bailii, House of Lords
Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 28(5), European Convention on Human Rights 5
England and Wales
Appeal fromRoberts v Parole Board CA 28-Jul-2004
The discretionary life-prisoner faced a parole board. The Secretary of State wished to present evidence, but wanted the witness to be protected. The Parole Board appointed special counsel to hear the evidence on behalf of the prisoner on terms that . .
CitedRegina v Lichniak HL 25-Nov-2002
The appellants challenged the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment imposed on them on their convictions for murder. They said it was an infringement of their Human Rights, being arbitrary and disproportionate.
Held: The case followed on . .
CitedGirling v Parole Board and Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 8-Apr-2005
Once the punitive or tariff term of imprisonment on a convicted murderer, is completed, risk to life and limb provides the sole ground for continued detention. The Parole Board, being subject to directions from the Home Secretary, was not an . .
At First InstanceRoberts v Parole Board Admn 19-Dec-2003
The prisoner had been convicted in 1996 of the murder of three police officers. His tariff had been fixed at 30 years. Material was to be placed before the parole board which was not to be disclosed to the appellant or his legal advisers. Instead it . .
CitedWeeks v The United Kingdom ECHR 2-Mar-1987
The applicant, aged 17, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment in the interests of public safety, being considered by the trial judge on appeal to be dangerous.
Held: ‘The court agrees with the Commission and the . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Doody and Others HL 25-Jun-1993
A mandatory lifer is to be permitted to suggest the period of actual sentence to be served. The Home Secretary must give reasons for refusing a lifer’s release. What fairness requires in any particular case is ‘essentially an intuitive judgment’, . .
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: . .
CitedRoberts v Parole Board Admn 19-Dec-2003
The prisoner had been convicted in 1996 of the murder of three police officers. His tariff had been fixed at 30 years. Material was to be placed before the parole board which was not to be disclosed to the appellant or his legal advisers. Instead it . .
CitedRegina v Parole Board, ex Parte Watson CA 11-Mar-1996
The test as to whether there was still a need to protect the public safety from the defendant was just as appropriate when considering the revocation of a licence, as it was when the need for continued detention was being reviewed before the grant . .
CitedRegina v A (Complainant’s Sexual History) (No 2) HL 17-May-2001
The fact of previous consensual sex between complainant and defendant could be relevant in a trial of rape, and a refusal to allow such evidence could amount to a denial of a fair trial to a defendant. Accordingly, where the evidence was so relevant . .
CitedRegina v H; Regina v C HL 5-Feb-2004
Use of Special Counsel as Last Resort Only
The accused faced charges of conspiring to supply Class A drugs. The prosecution had sought public interest immunity certificates. Special counsel had been appointed by the court to represent the defendants’ interests at the applications.
CitedDoorson v The Netherlands ECHR 26-Mar-1996
Evidence was given in criminal trials by anonymous witnesses and evidence was also read as a result of a witness having appeared at the trial but then absconded. The defendant was convicted of drug trafficking. As regards the anonymous witnesses, . .
CitedVan Mechelen And Others v The Netherlands ECHR 23-Apr-1997
A Dutch court had convicted the applicants of attempted manslaughter and robbery on the basis of statements made, before their trial, by anonymous police officers, none of whom gave evidence before the Regional Court or the investigating judge. The . .
CitedTinnelly and Sons Ltd and Others and McElduff and Others v United Kingdom ECHR 10-Jul-1998
Legislation which disallowed claimants who asserted that they had been discriminated against, on the grounds of their religious background, from appealing through the courts system, was a clear breach of their human rights. A limitation will not be . .
CitedJasper v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Feb-2000
Grand Chamber – The defendants had been convicted after the prosecution had withheld evidence from them and from the judge under public interest immunity certificates. They complained that they had not had fair trials.
Held: The right was . .
CitedIn Re K (Infants) CA 2-Jan-1963
The court discussed the need for those appearing before tribunals to be given sufficient access to all the material placed before the judge. Upjohn LJ said: ‘It seems to be fundamental to any judicial inquiry that a person or other properly . .
CitedRe D (Minors) (Adoption Reports: Confidentiality) HL 1-Sep-1995
The House considered whether it was right for a tribunal to see and rely upon papers not disclosed to the parties. Lord Mustill said: ‘a first principle of fairness that each party to a judicial process shall have an opportunity to answer by . .
CitedIn Re K (Infants); Official Solicitor v K HL 2-Jan-1963
The House considered the propriety of a tribunal chairman seeing material not placed before the parties. This was a wardship case.
Held: Where the interests of the parents and the child conflicted, ‘the welfare of the child must dominate’.
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 . .
CitedLamy v Belgium ECHR 30-Mar-1989
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 5-4; Pecuniary damage – claim rejected; Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses award – domestic proceedings; . .
CitedD (A Minor), Regina (on the Application of) v Camberwell Green Youth Court HL 27-Jan-2005
The defendant challenged the obligatory requirement that evidence given by a person under 17 in sex or violent offence cases must normally be given by video link.
Held: The purpose of the section was to improve the quality of the evidence . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Home Department Ex Parte Hickey and Others, Same Ex Parte Bamber; Same Ex Parte Malone (No 2) QBD 29-Nov-1994
The Home Secretary is obliged to disclose new evidence to a defendant before rejecting his application for a reference to Court of Appeal. The Home Secretary’s powers to refer a case back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) was an integral . .
CitedKostovski v The Netherlands ECHR 20-Nov-1989
No Anonymity for Witnessses in Criminal Trial
K was convicted of armed robbery on the basis of statements of anonymous witnesses. He was unable to question those witnesses at any stage. Being unaware of the identity of the witnesses deprived K of the very particulars which would have enabled . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Home Department ex parte H and Others, Regina v Same ex parte Hickey CA 29-Jul-1994
A discretionary life prisoner who had been transferred to a mental hospital is not automatically eligible for a certificate under the section. The right conferred on a discretionary life prisoner by section 34 of the 1991 Act did not extend to those . .
CitedBrandstetter v Austria ECHR 28-Aug-1991
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) – Preliminary objection rejected (non-exhaustion); Violation of Art. 6-1; No violation of Art. 6-1+6-3-d; No violation of Art. 6-3-c; Pecuniary damage – claim . .
CitedEdwards v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Dec-1992
The fact that the elderly victim of the robbery of which the defendant had been convicted had failed to pick out Mr Edwards when she was shown two volumes of photographs of possible burglars which included his photograph was not disclosed to the . .
mentionedSanchez-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. . .
MentionedAl-Nashif v Bulgaria ECHR 20-Jun-2002
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objections dismissed (non-exhaustion, abuse of right of petition); Violation of Art. 5-4; Violation of Art. 8; Violation of Art. 13; Not necessary to . .
MentionedLuca v Italy ECHR 27-Feb-2001
The accused had been convicted. After exercising his right to silence, there were read to the court accounts of statements made by co-accused but without an opportunity for him to cross examine the witnesses.
Held: Saunders had established the . .
CitedGarcia Alva v Germany ECHR 13-Feb-2001
The complainant had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and was detained on remand. When he brought an application for review of his detention his lawyers were not given access to a number of documents in the file, including the . .
CitedThe Secretary of State for the Home Department v M CA 18-Mar-2004
The applicant had been detained under the appellant’s certificate that he was a suspected terrorist.
Held: The fact that there were suspicions surrounding the detainee did not mean that those suspicions were necessarily reasonable suspicions . .
CitedAttorney General and Another v Great Eastern Railway Company HL 27-May-1880
An Act of Parliament authorised a company to construct a railway. Two other companies combined and contracted with the first to supply rolling stock. An injunction was brought to try to restrain this, saying that such a contract was not explicitly . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex Parte Pierson HL 24-Jul-1997
The Home Secretary may not later extend the tariff for a lifer, after it had been set by an earlier Home Secretary, merely to satisfy needs of retribution and deterrence: ‘A power conferred by Parliament in general terms is not to be taken to . .
CitedChahal v The United Kingdom ECHR 15-Nov-1996
Proper Reply Opportunity Required on Deportation
(Grand Chamber) The claimant was an Indian citizen who had been granted indefinite leave to remain in this country but whose activities as a Sikh separatist brought him to the notice of the authorities both in India and here. The Home Secretary of . .
CitedColes v Odhams Press Ltd 1936
Lord Hewart CJ said that courts should avoid ‘taking blind shots at a hidden target’. . .
CitedBouamar v Belgium ECHR 29-Feb-1988
Hudoc Violation of Art. 5-1; Violation of Art. 5-4; Just satisfaction reserved; Judgment (Just satisfaction) Struck out of the list (friendly settlement)
A person detained as a juvenile in need of . .
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 . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v Rehman HL 11-Oct-2001
The applicant, a Pakistani national had entered the UK to act as a Muslim priest. The Home Secretary was satisfied that he was associated with a Muslim terrorist organisation, and refused indefinite leave to remain. The Home Secretary provided both . .
CitedRegina v H; Regina v C HL 5-Feb-2004
Use of Special Counsel as Last Resort Only
The accused faced charges of conspiring to supply Class A drugs. The prosecution had sought public interest immunity certificates. Special counsel had been appointed by the court to represent the defendants’ interests at the applications.
MentionedRegina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
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 Davis; Regina v Rowe; Regina v Johnson CA 10-Mar-1993
Guidance was given on the procedures to be followed for applications for non-disclosure for public interest immunity. The court identified three types of case. In the first, and most frequent case the prosecution must notify the defence of the . .
CitedRegina on the Application of S v Waltham Forest Youth Court, The Crown Prosecution Service, The Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 31-Mar-2004
There was no inherent power to allow a defendant to give evidence by live link, on the ground that Parliament had sought since 1988 to provide exclusively for the circumstances in which live link might be used in a criminal trial. . .
QuotedUnited States v Rabinowitz 1950
(US Supreme Court) Justice Frankfurter said: ‘It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.’ . .
CitedRegina v Richmond Upon Thames London Borough Council, ex parte McCarthy and Stone (Developments) Ltd HL 14-Nov-1991
A Local Authority was not able to impose charge for inquiries as to speculative developments and similar proposals, or for consultations, and pre-planning advice. There was no statutory authority for such a charge, and it was therefore unlawful and . .
CitedHazell v Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council HL 1991
Swap deals outwith Council powers
The authority entered into interest rate swap deals to protect itself against adverse money market movements. They began to lose substantial amounts when interest rates rose, and the district auditor sought a declaration that the contracts were . .

Cited by:
CitedMcClean, Re HL 7-Jul-2005
The appellant was serving a life sentence for terrorist offences. He complained that he should have been released under the 1998 Act. It was said he would be a danger to the public if released. On pre-release home leave he was involved in a . .
CitedAl-Jedda, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence Admn 12-Aug-2005
The claimant was born an Iraqi, but had been granted British Nationality. He was later detained in Iraq suspected of membership of a terrorist group. No charges were brought, and he complained that his article 5 rights were infringed. The defendant . .
CitedHenshall v General Medical Council and others CA 13-Dec-2005
The claimant had lodged a complaint against a medical practitioner. The preliminary proceedings committee had accepted evidence from the doctor, but had not given the complainant opportunity to see it and comment upon it.
Held: the rules must . .
CitedMB, Re, Secretary of State for the Home Department v MB Admn 12-Apr-2006
The applicant challenged the terms of a non-derogating control order. It was anticipated that unless prevented, he would fight against UK forces in Iraq.
Held: The section allowed the Secretary of State to impose any necessary conditions, but . .
CitedGardner, Regina (on the Application Of) v the Parole Board Admn 21-Dec-2005
The court considered whether a parole review board can exclude the prisoner from part of a hearing and if so on what grounds.
Held: The parole board had the required power. Both Rule 19 (2) and 19 (3) gave the panel the power which they . .
CitedGardner, Regina (on the Application of) v Parole Board CA 5-Sep-2006
The prisoner challenged his exclusion from a parole board hearing whilst evidence was taken. He was serving a long sentence for a violent attack, and had re-offended only shortly after his release. His ex-wife had been unwilling to confront him, and . .
CitedA, K, M, Q and G v HM Treasury Admn 24-Apr-2008
The applicants were suspected of terrorist associations. Their bank accounts and similar had been frozen. They challenged the Order in Council under which the orders had been made without an opportunity for parliamentary challenge or approval.
CitedMurungaru v Secretary of State for the Home Department and others Admn 4-Oct-2006
The claimant challenged the decision of the respondent that his continued presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good. He had been given multiple entry visas which had been revoked.
Held: The refusal of entry interfered with . .
See AlsoRoberts, Regina (on the Application of) v The Parole Board Admn 7-Nov-2008
The prisoner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of three police officers in 1966. He served a longer time than the recommended minimum and had been transferred to an open prison anticipating release on licence. He now complained of . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others QBD 18-Nov-2009
The claimants sought damages from the defendants saying that they had been held and ill treated at various detention centres by foreign authorities, but with the involvement of the defendants. The defendants sought to bring evidence before the court . .
CitedBank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury CA 4-May-2010
The claimants sought damages after being made subject of orders under the 2009 Order. Both parties appealed against an order (partly closed) allowing some but restricting other disclosure and use against the claimants in court of evidence which they . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others CA 4-May-2010
Each claimant had been captured and mistreated by the US government, and claimed the involvement in and responsibility for that mistreatment by the respondents. The court was asked whether a court in England and Wales, in the absence of statutory . .
CitedSher and Others v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and Others Admn 21-Jul-2010
The claimants, Pakistani students in the UK on student visas, had been arrested and held by the defendants under the 2000 Act before being released 13 days later without charge. They were at first held incognito. They said that their arrest and . .
CitedChief Constable and Another v YK and Others FD 6-Oct-2010
The court gave directions in Forced Marriage Protection order applications. An order had been made at the request of the police on behalf of A, and the court had declined to discharge it on A’s own application.
Held: Special advocates were not . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others SC 13-Jul-2011
The claimant pursued a civil claim for damages, alleging complicity of the respondent in his torture whilst in the custody of foreign powers. The respondent sought that certain materials be available to the court alone and not to the claimant or the . .
CitedMcGetrick, Regina (on The Application of) v Parole Board and Another CA 14-Mar-2013
The claimant prisoner appealed against refusal of review of the use of allegations and evidence of offences not tried against him when deciding as to his release on licence. The material would suggest that he might pose a continuing risk to . .
CitedBank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury (No 1) SC 19-Jun-2013
Closed Material before Supreme Court
Under the 2009 order, the appellant Bank had been effectively shut down as to its operations within the UK. It sought to use the appeal procedure, and now objected to the use of closed material procedure. The Supreme Court asked itself whether it . .
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 . .

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Prisons, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 19 January 2022; Ref: scu.228285