When a person is sentenced to jail in Queensland, a ‘non-parole period’ may be set. This is the time they must spend in prison before being released or being eligible to apply for parole.
Parole is the release on conditions after having served the non-parole period of that sentence in a prison. The parolee is supervised in the community by Corrective Services until the end of their sentence.
Under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992:
- if a court sentences a person to jail for 3 years or less for an offence or offences that are not sexual offences or serious violent offences, it must set a parole release date.
- if it is a sexual offence or a serious violent offence, the court can set a date when the person will be eligible to apply to the Parole Board for parole.
- if the person receives a new prison sentence during their parole period, parole will be cancelled and the court won’t set a parole release date. However, they may give a date when the person will again be eligible to apply to the Parole Board for parole.
- If a court sets the date that a person becomes eligible to apply for parole, it is then up to the Parole Board to decide whether to release them on parole.
- If the court doesn’t set a date, the prisoner can apply to the Parole Board after serving half of their sentence, unless it is a life or indefinite sentence, or if a ‘serious violent offence declaration’ has been made.
- The board will assess the application for parole within 180 days, or 210 days if it needs more information.
- An application can be made at any time to the parole board for exceptional circumstances parole. This kind of parole is granted on compassionate grounds, such as if a person is seriously ill.
Several offences are considered ‘serious violent offences’, including some sexual offences. If the court convicts a person of one of these offences, they won’t be able to apply for parole until they have served 80 per cent of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is sooner, unless a later parole eligibility date has been set by the court.
For a person sentenced to life, they must spend 15 years in prison before they can reapply for parole.
For multiple life sentences, or if the person has previously been convicted of murder, they must serve 25 years before an application for parole can be made.
The most important consideration when granting parole is community safety. The Parole Board will look at:
- previous criminal history and likelihood of re-offending
- whether there has been a conviction for a prescribed sexual offence
- any recommendations for parole, parole eligibility date, or comments made by the sentencing court
- whether there was cooperation with authorities in convicting others
- the prisoner’s behaviour while they have been in prison
- any medical, psychological, or other risk assessment reports
- any submissions made to the Board by a victim
- previous compliance with any other community based release, community service, work programs or resettlement leave program
- whether there is access to support and services that may reduce any risk to the community
- any recommended rehabilitation programs or interventions.
A parolee must comply with any conditions set out in their parole order, such as:
- not committing an offence
- being supervised by a Corrective Services Officer and following any of their directions
- advising Corrective Services within 48 hours if they change where they live or work
- not leaving Queensland without permission
- attending programs, courses, and counselling
- undertaking drug and alcohol testing
- any other conditions contained in the parole order.
There may be significant consequences for you if you break (breach) any condition of your parole order.
Your Parole Office may amend your order by adding, removing or changing conditions. Alternatively, they might suspend your sentence in which case you will be taken into custody for a maximum of 28 days. For court ordered parole, your Parole Office may take more informal actions, such as giving you a written or verbal warning or increasing surveillance. The Parole Board will be notified of your breach and may take further action.
The Parole Board may amend your parole order, or they may suspend it for a specified period of time or indefinitely. The Board may also cancel your parole order. They must issue you with a show cause letter which tells you why the decision was made and for how long it is to apply. You can then make written submissions for the Board to consider. If you are unhappy with their decision, you can apply for a Judicial Review by the court.
In some cases, your parole order may be cancelled automatically. This happens if you receive another prison sentence while on parole. The only exceptions to this are:
- where the new sentence relates to a default in paying a fine or making restitution
- if the term of imprisonment is due to an intensive correction order
- if the sentence has been wholly suspended
- if you are released by the court.
If you have breached your parole, or have any questions regarding parole, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 25 November 2015. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.