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UK Supreme Court hears case of R (Pearce) v Parole Board of England & Wales

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This week the Supreme Court in Pearce v Parole Board will consider the question of whether the Parole Board can only take into account allegations if they are proved to the civil standard when assessing the risk a prisoner poses to the public on release.

The case concerns the legality of the Board’s Guidance on Allegations which was published following the John Worboys case, the high-profile case resulting in the black cab driver being convicted of 19 accounts of sexual assault. Worboys established that the Board can, and sometimes must, take account of non-convicted offending in its risk assessment.

In this case, Mr Pearce was sentenced after three offences of sexual assault. After serving his minimum sentence, the Parole Board refused to direct his release and instead directed his transfer to open conditions. In accordance with its Guidance on Allegations, the Board took into account multiple unproven allegations about other alleged sexual assaults carried out by Mr Pearce against women and girls when assessing his risk.

The Court of Appeal, whilst it found that the decision in respect of Mr Pearce was lawful, it held parts of the Board’s Guidance were unlawful since, in its view, only proven allegations can fairly be taken into account in the risk assessment. The Parole Board now appeals to the Supreme Court.

Sarah appears for the Parole Board with Conor Fegan and Ben Collins KC, they are instructed by the Government Legal Department.