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NMA calls for parole hearings to be open to press and public

NMALogonewThe News Media Association has called for both the press and public to be allowed to attend Parole Board hearings.

In a submission to the Ministry of Justice consultation ‘Reconsideration of Parole Board decisions: creating a new and open system’, the trade body for the regional and national press said parole board decisions “go to the heart of crucial questions about liberty and public safety”.

Launched earlier this year, the consultation is examining ways to make the Parole Board more transparent.

In its submission, the NMA claimed public access should be “allowed at every hearing where it would not frustrate the function of the hearing” and should be “approached as the presumption”.

It said: “Where the hearing cannot be in public, a transcript of the hearing with necessary redactions should be made available as soon as possible after the hearing, without charge.

“This would allow for transparency while allowing victims to be protected in instances where a full public hearing would significantly violate their privacy or cause them to self-censor their evidence.”

The NMA also backed a proposal in the consultation which would allow any individual, including journalists and media outlets, to submit an application to trigger the process for reconsideration of a decision taken by the Parole Board.

It added: “This would assist the media in performing its function as public watchdog and would allow any interested party to flag concerns with a given decision.”