In August 2022, Ian Clewlow acted for a man convicted of a serious sexual offence who was serving an Extended Determinate Sentence. Over the course of nearly 18 months of intensive work, Ian managed to secure a direction for release from the Parole Board.
His client responded with a lengthy thank you letter in which he said:
"A big thank you for all your hard work. You were very professional and went above and beyond what I expected you to do. You took away my fears and you didn't judge me for my offence. I promise you that I will not see you again but you will always be in mine and my family's hearts for working so hard for me."
Working with prisoners convicted of sexual offences requires certain skills, not least a non-judgmental approach. Ian and SL5 Legal are driven by a desire for fairness for all prisoners, no matter what their convictions are.
Ian, and others at SL5, pay particular attention to the findings of a detailed report, entitled Management and supervision of men convicted of sexual offences: a thematic inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which was published in January 2019.
There were particularly stark findings:
For a prisoner convicted of sexual offences awaiting a Review from the Parole Board, there was a 33% chance that their risk assessment was wrong or incomplete
In 40% of cases, the National Probation Service was not doing any work to address sexual offending behaviour
Much of the work delivered with sexual offenders in prison was assessed as “poor quality”
Reading this, you might conclude that the chances of getting a fair and effective parole review, if you had been convicted of a sexual offence, were not good. The Inspectorate concluded that significant improvements were needed to ensure that sexual offenders were managed effectively in prison and the community. The then Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey noted that:
"…despite evidence that we can reduce the risk of (sex offenders) reoffending, little if any meaningful work is being done in prison."
This was reported upon with concern in the media and amongst prison commentators, who focused principally upon public protection issues and, perhaps understandably, less on the potential lack of fairness for prisoners trying to evidence to the Parole Board that they are safe to be released into the community or progressed to open prison conditions.
Prisoners who find that is simply not possible to undertake any interventions in closed prison conditions - because the programmes are not available or because they have been inaccurately assessed as not suitable for them – face serious obstacles when it comes to parole reviews.
Ian has taken account of the deficiencies highlighted in the 2019 report and has worked hard to minimise the difficulties faced by his clients. This has included battling for his clients to access programmes or arguing persuasively that they are not needed and that other evidence of risk reduction should be taken into account.
He has advocated for his clients to try to ensure that they get fair and balanced assessments which are not unduly influenced purely by the offence they have committed, but which take an individualised approach and take account of changes made and insight developed by his clients.
This is the kind of approach which produced a successful outcome for the client who spoke so highly of his work. It is always very much appreciated to receive feedback like this from our clients.