06:59, November 09 34 0 theguardian.com

2018-11-09 06:59:07
Parole Board has no black people among 240 members

The body responsible for deciding whether prisoners can be released into the community has no black members, it has been revealed.

Caroline Corby, the chair of the Parole Board, has said she fears unconscious bias could be behind the absence of black members and the low number of minority ethnic people.

Corby also said the board had suffered a “loss of confidence” following the case of John Worboys, the black-cab serial rapist who the board had deemed safe to be released after around a decade. The decision was later reversed by the high court.

Corby said she was concerned about the lack of diversity on the board, which consists of 240 members, 13 of whom are of Asian or minority ethnic background.

“At the moment we have no black Parole Board members and that’s of significant concern to me,” she told the BBC. “But in terms of addressing this issue, we’re very keen to have as many people with a BAME background apply to us as possible.

“We have learnt lessons from our last recruitment round because we actually had the same objective and we weren’t successful, so I am determined to learn lessons from last time around.”

She said there were not enough BAME applicants during the last recruitment round and those who did apply did “very poorly” in the first two stages of the five-stage process for “reasons we don’t entirely understand”.

“But I think there must have been some kind of unconscious bias in those processes. We’re not going to have those processes next time around.”

She said it was hard to gauge whether members were being more risk-averse following the Worboys case, but the release rate had dropped from 49% to 42% in the immediate aftermath and had since risen to 46%, with more adjournments and deferrals.

“It was obviously a very difficult period for the board.

“We saw the departure of our previous chair in difficult circumstances, the board was subject to an unprecedented amount of publicity, the like of which we haven’t experienced before, and I think there was a loss of confidence amongst ourselves a little bit, perhaps a loss of confidence in the wider public, and that was something I am very keen to repair.”

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