Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

5.  Letter to the Chairman from Liberty


  I am writing following the publication of the decisions made by the Committee at its first meeting on 19 July.

  I have considered this remedial order and it clearly does what is necessary to rectify the incompatibility identified in R (H) Mental Health Review Tribunal. However, I am concerned about potential incompatibility in parallel legislation.

  As you may know those prisoners sentenced to discretionary life sentences are assessed for release by Discretionary Lifer Panels of the Parole Board. The assessment by those Panels is based on section 28(6)(b) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 which states:

    "(6)  The Parole Board shall not give a direction under sub-section (5) above [a direction to the Secretary of State to release the lifer] with respect to a life sentence prisoner to whom this section applies unless . . .

      (b)  the Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined."

  This provision puts the burden on the prisoner in exactly the same way as the Mental Health Act does (see R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Watson [1996] 2 All ER 641). I accept that section 10 of the Human Rights Act does not allow the remedial order to rectify section 28 of the Crime (Sentences) Act because that provision has not been declared incompatible. However, I wonder whether it would be appropriate for your Committee to ask the Government whether in the light of the decision in H it also intends to amend the law for discretionary lifers.

John Wadham


18 August 2001

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