A major amendment to the New Zealand Parole Board Act came into effect just over a month ago. Parole hearings are an important part of how our justice system applies its discretion, giving offenders an opportunity to be released and monitored in the community if they can convince a board that they pose no further danger. The recent amendment made the following changes to the process:
- Previously the parole board would see every offender every twelve months. Now if the board doesn’t believe that it is necessary, they can postpone convening for up to two years.
- For offenders serving sentences of more than ten years, hearings can be postponed for up to five years.
- This means that the board is able to give offenders longer periods to complete rehabilitation programmes, and can more complex requirements outside of the 12 month period.
- Offenders can apply for a review of the decision to postpone hearings, and if that is unsuccessful can challenge the decision in the high court.
There is no doubt that this law will reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings that the board has to deal with, but it also raises some potential issues that we’ll investigate and report back on here.