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Burton parole cover-up reports

  • March 6th, 2007

I am too furious to be coolly analytical.

These reports show the system colluding to cover-up scandal.

The immediate scandal is the casual breach of duty by the Parole Board. They had no evidence from which to infer that ‘the community’ would be safe from Burton, and plenty of evidence that, in the words repeated in successive psychological reports, he would be at “high risk” or “very high risk” or “moderate to high risk” of “reoffending in a violent manner”.

They had no reason to assume that their fanciful conditions would be enforced, even if the Probation Service had the capacity to do it. The Board must have been on enquiry. There is plenty of evidence that the Probation Service enforcement has broken down. Parole Board members must have willfully turned a blind eye to the collapse of morale and capacity in that service.

A Board that was complying with its statutory duty would have simply refused to release Burton. They would have also told victims and the government that the Board would release no more such prisoners until conditions imposed were enforceable and routinely enforced.

A greater scandal is the impression these reports struggle to convey that no one has done anything wrong that can’t be fixed by more “communication” and better guidelines. Here is the judgment of the Parole Board review team;   “Having made the judgment that the unproveable allegations about Burton’s conduct recounted by the psychologist should not be taken into account, on the information available before the Parole Board on 28 June 2006, the decision to grant Mr. Burton’s application for Parole was reasonable.”

In other words, having discarded all the inconvenient evidence that Burton is dangerous, including the psychologists’ judgments that he remained a high risk, and the Board’s unavoidable knowledge that their conditions are pie in the sky, and the action of  of prison officers in fear of Burton, then it is reasonable to decide that there is not enough evidence that he might be a danger.
Still more scandalous is the contempt shown for the public on the face of these reports. The reports give a shallow burial to the vital questions in mounds of irrelevancies. The authors feel no need to offer an excuse.

This is the anointed of the justice establishment closing ranks against the ordinary people they so despise. By saying there is nothing wrong that a bit of extra “communication” cant fix, they shelter the loopy theory that if we are just nice enough for long enough to brutal criminals, some day they will be nice back. To these anointed every year’s  thousands of innocent victims of paroled criminals are just necessary sacrifices to their need to show they are more compassionate than us ordinary people.

The greatest scandal of all is the political hypocrisy in maintaining the parole system. Its victims are statistically absolutely predictable. Four out of five parolees will have found new victims within 3 years of release. The same politicians who’ve slammed decent citizens with crushing liabilities for fractional percentage risks of unintended harms, exempt their own agents from liability for near certain harm to the innocent. They protect a system in which they loose criminals who present an 80% risk of finding fresh victims.

The Corrections  internal auditors show the way:
1)  On the first page they give Burton’s murder conviction a date wrong by 10 years; – what confidence can we place in so called “auditors” who can not even get that right in a report that must have been minutely edited?
2)  They admit that the “investigation did not focus on the advice provided by Community Probation Service relating to proposed release conditions”; – why not? What else was going to promise safety? Even the prison guards were so scared of Burton that they moved him to higher security for the last few months of his imprisonment? All concerned knew that only the supervision conditions stood between him and his next victims.
3)  The external reviewers of the Parole Board decision are scarcely less coy, but at least in their last paragraph they admit the vital importance of the fanciful conditions ”We are not privy to what happened after release except the public information around the tragedy, but the case raises a question as to whether the Board’s expectations were reasonably capable of being resourced by those responsible for supervision. This may need consideration elsewhere, but in like cases it seems desirable that there be a mechanism for confirmation that Corrections can adequately service the Parole Board’s set conditions before release is effected”.
4) The internal auditors carefully avoid describing the alarming facts behind Burton’s 14 days segregation and move to higher security before his release. They call it “unsubstantiated intelligence”. They record that the Parole Board heard about it from a psychologist but decided to ignore it, but do not explain why it was not mentioned by other prison service personnel who reported to the Parole Baord.
5) The internal auditors assume the materiality of  the Parole Board’s earnest belief in the power of escorted pre-release excursions through town without presenting any research or other evidence that excursions make the slightest difference to the risk presented by a vicious and calculating murderer?
6) They waste pages excusing the failure to give Burton most of those excursions. In four different places in their report we learn that a change in law, coupled with his security risk classification, deprived Burton of some of his excursions. Nothing is said, on the other hand, about why the ‘intelligence’ could not be substantiated that lead to Burton’s segregation and detention in higher security.

The Parole Board reviewers spill the beans. He was suspected of having broken one inmate’s arm, left another severely beaten and terrifying a third, but all were so scared they would not give evidence. Then prison officers heard he had put a contract out on them so they acted.

Why were the reports of  such conduct not taken in to account by the Parole Board? And why is this elephant studiously ignored?

Because the politicians want lip service to the allegedly “paramount consideration” of community safety.  What is actually paramount is the prisoner’s right to release if the Board can not prove he is a threat. Instead of being a privilege that a clean record might earn, the lawyers have won. Safety is now the privilege. And it is reserved for those in the leafy suburbs far away from the pre-release hostels, and the poor townships frequented by parolees.

In real life people appraise risk on the basis of experience and probablilties (otherwise called common sense, or intuition or suspicion). They do not wait for proof of risk. But in lawyer-land precautions are only permissible when suspicion has been proved in the formal proceedings that make them money. Sure, if you are an employer or building owner or farmer you can be judged guilty until proven innocent if someone is hurt. As the Berryman case shows, even if someone else was at fault and you did not even know the seriousness of  the  risk, you can be convicted and driven to bankruptcy.

But not those who design this justice system, and make the rules.

These two patsy reports show an establishment closing ranks, to defend the indefensible. What hope can the victims have of getting a penetrating report in to the next phase of this tragedy – the dealings with Burton after he was released.


[…] Also, Stephen Franks has an excellent piece about the Burton parole cover-up. […]

  • Chris
  • April 29th, 2007
  • 5:46 pm


I was just wondering where you got your statistics, especially in relation to reoffending rates.

Thank you

  • Kevin Rostran
  • February 15th, 2010
  • 4:06 am

Disgusted to see yet another BURTON murderer is being molly coddle by the system. What I want to know is WHY? Seems the clan can get away with it. 

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