We wanted to share an example of effective advocacy by the newest member of our team, Emma McClure.
Standing up for our clients sometimes means battling to get their cases heard on time. Hearings are very often delayed and this can be extremely frustrating and distressing for our clients.
Emma is acting for a client who has been in custody for a very long time.
His latest parole hearing was listed for August 2021. A full hearing took place. There were different professional opinions expressed - some supporting release, others not. The case was adjourned for further information to be provided about release and risk management plans.
The Parole Board reconvened a hearing in January 2022. At least one witness had told the parole board's case manager that they couldn’t make the date but this wasn’t communicated to anyone else. The client did not discover that his hearing wasn't going ahead until the day before the hearing.
Two more dates were proposed in February and March. Witnesses said they were not available.
Finally, a date was found for a hearing in April – eight months on from the original hearing. There was a slight change to the Panel line up which meant the hearing would need to start from scratch.
As the reports were by this point quite out of date, Emma asked the Parole Board to direct update reports. The Panel declined to make this a formal direction but invited the community offender manager to produce a report. They did not do so.
On the day of the hearing the newest report was six months old. The Panel stated they could not go ahead without update reports and said the hearing would be deferred. Emma knew that this case was very likely to drift for months longer. She insisted that the Panel consider oral submissions about the way in which the case had been managed.
Rather than simply directing an administrative deferral, Emma was able to persuade the panel to expedite the case and to make much more robust directions. This will mean a hearing should now take place in a few weeks' time rather than months.
Witnesses were directed to prioritise this case above others when completing reports. They were asked to remain on the video link to discuss their reports immediately after the hearing.
The panel stated that they would change other commitments they had to prioritise this case. They also apologised on behalf of the Parole Board for the delays in the case.