The Parole Board is facing a major shake-up to put public safety first, the Daily Mail can reveal today.
Dominic Raab wants it to focus far more on the potential dangers before it decides to free murderers and rapists.
The Justice Secretary’s intervention comes amid widespread fury over the release of child killer Colin Pitchfork in September.
The Justice Secretary’s intervention comes amid widespread fury over the release of child killer Colin Pitchfork, pictured, in September
He had to be recalled to prison last week after approaching girls near his bail hostel.
A large-scale review of the Parole Board launched 12 months ago had been due to report its findings by Christmas.
However this has been delayed for Mr Raab to take a fresh look at the system.
‘He believes the board is adrift from its core purpose and he wants to make sure it is exactly as he wants it,’ a source said. ‘Risk to the public must be the top consideration.’
The final review will now not be published until next year – potentially too late to prevent Pitchfork’s release.
Yesterday the board admitted that the double killer could be let out again within months if a case review decides it is safe to do so.
This oral hearing, which will take place behind closed doors, could come any time from February.
The panel will quiz the notorious killer’s probation officer, bail hostel staff and analyse polygraph results amid concerns Pitchfork may have been trying to cheat lie detector tests.
Leicestershire schoolgirl Lynda Mann, 15, who was raped and murdered by Pitchfork. He had to be recalled to prison last week after approaching girls near his bail hostel
It will also hear from witnesses about the concerning behaviour of the 61-year-old toward young women.
A Ministry of Justice source said: ‘Pitchfork’s behaviour on the outside shows his risk remains significant and this new, compelling evidence weighs heavily against his release any time soon.
‘He’s clearly not fit for release in a few months – it simply won’t happen.’
Even if it is decided he is still a danger, Pitchfork will get another chance at freedom 24 months later when the panel reviews its decision.
He was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.
His 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009, and he was freed in September to a bail hostel on the south coast despite warnings he remained a danger.
He was arrested on Friday for sidling up to young women in their late teens and early 20s. That led to fresh fury over the board’s decision to release him.
In an extraordinary statement yesterday, the board suggested that then justice secretary Robert Buckland effectively sanctioned the decision by failing to raise any objection at a hearing in May.
A spokesman said: ‘The secretary of state at the time was also represented at the hearing and did not oppose release.’
But Mr Buckland hit back saying it was not his role to overrule the decisions of an independent body.
He said he instead applied formally for the board to reconsider the decision and spoke openly about how ‘frustrated’ he was about the release of the ‘sadistic’ child killer. Judge Michael Topolski QC rejected Mr Buckland’s challenge.
Fifteen-year-old Dawn Ashworth was raped and murdered by Pitchfork in July 1986
Mr Buckland added last night: ‘It’s wrong to suggest I am somehow complicit. Public protection should be very much at the heart of how they [the Parole Board] do these cases.’
It was reported yesterday that the shake-up of the board could grant victims the right to appeal to an independent body to challenge the release of criminals. Currently they – or the Justice Secretary – can only ask the board to reconsider its verdict.
A board spokesman said: ‘Parole Board panels rely heavily on the evidence of professional witnesses who have the benefit of monitoring and working closely with an offender throughout their sentence.
‘The Parole Board’s judicial decision to release Mr Pitchfork was made in May and followed consideration of extensive evidence from his community probation officer, prison probation officer and prison psychologist.’
MPs added to the pressure on the board yesterday by criticising its statement on the Pitchfork case.
Alberto Costa, who campaigned against the killer’s release, wrote online: ‘Hugely disappointing to see this statement from the Parole Board on Colin Pitchfork’s recall to prison. Very little accountability or contrition.’
Fellow Tory Marcus Fysh said: ‘I see the Parole Board is another example of a quango that doesn’t know what it’s doing.’
Source: Daily Mail UK