Parole Board for Scotland

The Parole Board for Scotland is a tribunal non-departmental public body in Scotland first established in 1967, with responsibility for parole decisions. Its decision making and operating are independent of the Scottish Government, and many of its decisions are binding on Scottish Minister. The Parole Board has statutory powers to:

  • Direct the release of prisoners with determinate sentences or extended sentences of 4 years or more (with licence where required);
  • Direct the release of prisoners with life sentences on life licence;
  • Recommend the recall to prison, in the public interest, of anyone released on parole or life licence;
  • Direct the re-release of prisoners recalled to prison.

Parole Board for Scotland
Logo of the Parole Board for Scotland
Agency overview
Formed1967 (1967)
Typetribunal non-departmental public body
HeadquartersSaughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD
55.93489°N 3.18291°W / 55.93489; -3.18291
Minister responsible
Agency executives
  • John Watt, Chairman
  • Colin Spivey, Chief Executive
Parent departmentJustice Directorate of the Scottish Government
Key document
  • Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989
Scotland in the UK and Europe

The Parole Board also has the power to advise the Scottish Ministers on additional conditions on prisoners' release licences, and it operates as appellate body for alleged breaches of Home Detention Curfew. The Parole Board can only make a determination where the Scottish Ministers refer a case.

John Watt is the current chairman having been appointed to that position on 1 January 2013.

Remit and jurisdiction

Criminal justice system

The Parole Board is part of the criminal justice system in Scotland. It is a Tribunal Non-Departmental Public Body which has a number of statutory functions but operates independently from the Scottish Government.[1] It is responsible for making important decisions about the release and recall of long term prisoners, and for setting licence conditions for a range of prisoners to help manage their risk in the community on release.[2]

Referral by Scottish Ministers

The Parole Board has no statutory powers to consider the case of a prisoner unless the case has been referred to it by Scottish Ministers. For each case it receives a range of information that has been prepared by relevant professionals including: a home background report, a prison social work report, a trial judge report (if available), and where appropriate psychological and/or psychiatric report, sentence management reports and prisoner misconduct reports.[3]

Information considered

The Parole Board gives consideration to any information that it receives, including written comments that a victim of a crime can supply about the release of the offender (under the Victim Notification Scheme). Decisions made by the Board are intended to focus on the potential risk a prisoner might pose to the community.[4]


In 2011, an Audit Scotland review of Scotland’s criminal justice system noted that the Parole Board is sometimes limited in its ability to grant parole because of the lack of availability of rehabilitation programmes in prison.[5]


Procedures around the release of prisoners sentenced on or after 1 October 1993 are detailed in the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993.[6] The legislation covering the parole consideration in relation to these prisoners is set out in the Parole Board (Scotland) Rules 2001.[7]

Appointment to the board are regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland. John Watt was appointed as chairman on 1 January 2013.[8]


  1. "Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) National Guidance 2012 Version 1 and Covering Justice and Communities Circular JD/01/2012". Scottish Government. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  2. "News: Parole Board for Scotland". Scottish Government. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  3. "Role of the Board". Parole Board for Scotland. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  4. "After the verdict: The Parole Board". Victims of Crime in Scotland. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  5. "An overview of Scotland's criminal justice system" (PDF). Audit Scotland. September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  6. "Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993". National Archives. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  7. "Parole Board (Scotland) Rules 2001". National Archives. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  8. "About Us". Parole Board for Scotland. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
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