The Parole Board is in serious difficulty assessing when offenders should be released from custody because it runs three unlinked databases of key information, MPs have warned.
The Committee of Public Accounts said the Parole Board urgently needed a single, unified database of information. The difficulties accessing key data led to delays, and created a risk that "catastrophic" decisions would be made with dangerous prisoners mistakenly being released, the MPs warned.
In their report ‘Protecting the public: the work of the Parole Board’, the MPs on the Committee of Public Accounts wrote that a new unified database is needed “without delay”. It would replace the three databases in existence, the committee noted.
“The board’s administration of cases and its recording of data are being hampered because it holds details of cases on three separate databases and combines them manually,” the report said.
The three databases in use were developed in-house, with one showing the number of cases left, one containing the hearings, and another the arrangements for individual offenders. The Parole Board wants to replace them and is assessing suppliers, but was unable to say when it would reach a decision.
The Parole Board had hoped to use the Ministry of Justice’s troubled C-NOMIS offender management system, but as this will not be available until at least 2010, it has been forced to look at alternatives, it said in evidence given to the committee.
The MPs urged the Parole Board to act quickly because decisions on parole could not be made “without access to all the relevant facts”.
In the nine months to June 2007, the delays cost the Parole Board £3 million, around 40 percent of its annual budget. This was comprised of direct costs rescheduling hearings, as well as keeping offenders in custody when they should have been released.
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