Parole refers to a prisoner’s release into the community under supervision. The release is subject to conditions after the offender has served the non-parole period of their sentence. Parole is designed to help a prisoner reintegrate into society while protecting the community. In Victoria it is governed by the Corrections Act 1986 and the Sentencing Act 1991.
Under the Sentencing Act, when an offender is sentenced to a term of imprisonment that is 2 years or more, the court must fix a period during which the offender is not eligible for release on parole, unless the nature of the offence or the history of the offender make this inappropriate. Unless the court believes it is not in the interests of justice, it must fix a non-parole period of:
- 30 years if the offender has been jailed for the term of their natural life;
- 70% of a term that is 20 years or more;
- 60% of a term that is less than 20 years.
For sentences of between 1 and 2 years, the court can choose to fix a non-parole period.
This period can be applied to one sentence or a total of 2 or more sentences. If an offender is sentenced to more jail time before the end of the non-parole period, the court must fix a new, single non-parole period.
Adult Parole Board
The Adult Parole Board is responsible for parole assessments and decisions. Under the Corrections Act, community safety and protection must be the paramount considerations for the board in deciding whether a prisoner should be released.
Instructions for specific prisoners
Section 74 of the Act contains provisions for any prisoner who has murdered a police officer. The board must not make a parole order for such a prisoner unless it is satisfied the prisoner no longer has the physical capacity to do harm to anyone and does not pose a risk to the community. The same provisions apply to Julian Knight, who carried out the Hoddle Street massacre in 1987, and Craig Minogue, who bombed the Victoria Police headquarters in 1986. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
This section also prohibits the board from granting parole to a prisoner jailed for murder, conspiracy to murder, accessory to murder or manslaughter, unless satisfied the prisoner has co-operated with police to identify the location or last known location of the body or remains of the victim.
The section also requires the board to consider terrorism risk information and not grant parole to a prisoner if it satisfied there is a risk the prisoner will commit a terrorism offence. The board must also consider any submissions from victims of a crime when assessing parole.
Conditions attached to a parole order are wide and varied but there are standard conditions attached by the board to every order.
These standard conditions are that the prisoner must:
- not commit an offence;
- submit to drug testing if required;
- report as required to Corrections Victoria;
- follow instructions from Corrections Victoria;
- notify of any charge of address or employment;
- not leave Victoria without the permission of Corrections Victoria;
Other conditions are tailored to the offender, and are designed to ensure the prisoner’s good behaviour in the community and prevent offending. Such conditions might include:
- a curfew;
- a prohibition or restriction from associating with a specified person or being at a certain place;
- random substance testing;
- assessment and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction;
- assessment and treatment for mental illness;
- electronic monitoring of the prisoner.
A prisoner must not breach a parole condition without reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 3 months, a fine of 30 penalty units ($4956.60), or both.
A police officer or protective services officer on duty can arrest an offender without a warrant if they reasonably suspect the person has breached parole. The offender can be held in custody if the officer is satisfied the breach is not trivial or minor, and detention is necessary to prevent continuation of the breach or a further breach. The offender must be held in custody if the breach is commission of an offence punishable by imprisonment.
While on parole, if an offender is charged an offence punishable with imprisonment, the board can cancel parole or vary parole conditions. If the offender was on parole for a sexual or serious violent offence, and the charge is for the same offence or a terrorism offence, the board must cancel parole. Parole is taken to be cancelled if the offender is sentenced to prison, in Victoria or elsewhere, while they are on parole. Cancellation can be revoked in exceptional circumstances.
Once parole is cancelled, a warrant is issued for the prisoner’s return to prison. The warrant can authorise police to break, enter and search a place for a prisoner, or authorise a protective services officer to arrest a prisoner and hand them to police.
The board can again release a prisoner on parole for the same offence as long as prisoner has served a certain period in prison.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.