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Parole Board to go public with reasons and decisions in high-profile cases

Parole Board Queensland yesterday unveiled its plans to publish decisions and reasons surrounding considerations and conditions for the release of high-profile criminals back into the community.

PBQ President Michael Byrne QC, told Proctor the Board was on track to launch its own website on Monday, with plans in the future to publish “truncated’’ decisions made in cases of significant public interest so as to make the reasons for any decision as “transparent’’ as possible.

“We understand the decisions of PBQ in certain high profile cases are of significant public interest and where and when possible, we plan to published truncated reasons on our new website,’’ Mr Byrne said.

Mr Byrne said the decision to do so would give members of the public greater insight and understanding of how the Board reached its decisions, the numerous factors that were taken in to action and conditions imposed on a parolee should they be released.

The announcement comes during recent speculative news reports surrounding an application for parole by convicted Childers Backpacker killer Robert Long.

Long killed 15 people, but was only tried and convicted for two of the deaths of his victims, when he deliberately set fire to Childers Palace Backpackers, 300km north of Brisbane, on 23 June 2000.

PBQ Deputy President Peter Shields said the decision to publish Board decisions was a Queensland first and proved PBQ’s commitment to “transparency’’ and to explain the steps taken, decisions made and the reasons behind them when considering if a prisoner should receive parole.

“This will be more transparent than the Parole Board in Queensland has ever been,’’ Mr Shields said.

“We are also considering naming who chaired (the hearing) … to add to that transparency.’’

“For instance … Gerard Baden-Clay get parole chaired by Peter Shields or Michael Byrne would never happen (as the pair represented Baden-Clay during his trial). But, it is important and in the public’s interest to know who chaired the hearing to guarantee clarity and confidence in the process.’’

As high profile lawyers, Mr Byrne, Mr Shields and fellow Deputy President Julie Sharp said there would be many cases they would be unable to chair due to personal conflicts.

Ms Sharp said: “We’ve all got cases (we’ve been personally involved in at some time) and this is a way of owning the decisions and being transparent about it at the same time.’’

Mr Byrne said the publication of decisions would not be retrospective and that PBQ would continue to work toward a policy or strategy to identify which matters are of significant public interest and should be published on the website.

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