• In the case of R (Osborn) v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61 2014 ac 1115, it was found that it may be necessary for an oral hearing so that Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights can be complied with where the principle of fairness in relation to a prisoner is in question.

Facts of the Case

  • The claimant prisoner was released, albeit on licence, after spending six years in prison.
  • C’s licence was revoked, and he was sent back to prison for breaching the conditions of the licence.
  • Under section 255C of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Secretary of State referred the case to D, the Parole Board who subsequently declined the re-release of the prisoner.
  • C’s request to have an oral hearing on the matter was refused and C challenged this rejection pursuant to Article 5(4) of the ECHR.
  • The Court of Appeal dismissed C’s appeal.


  • Could C be entitled to an oral hearing under Article 5(4) of the ECHR?

Held by the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court allowed C’s appeal and held that C was entitled to an oral hearing.

Lord Reed

Elaborate on the judgment

  • Lord Reed emphasised the requirement for domestic laws to detail the Convention rights and also asserts where an oral hearing is necessary and why it should be granted.
  • “The values underlying both the Convention and our own constitution require that Convention rights should be protected primarily by a detailed body of domestic law. The Convention taken by itself is too inspecific to provide the guidance which is necessary in a state governed by the rule of law. As the European court has said, “a norm cannot be regarded as a ‘law’ unless it is formulated with sufficient precision to enable the citizen to regulate his conduct” (Sunday Times v United Kingdom (1979) 2 EHRR 245 , 271). The Convention cannot therefore be treated as if it were Moses and the prophets.” [56]
  • “Thirdly, since the effect of the refusal of an oral hearing is that the provisional decision becomes final, it follows that an oral hearing should be granted in any case where it would be unfair to the prisoner for that to happen. For example, if the representations made in support of the prisoner’s request for an oral hearing raise issues which place in question anything in the provisional decision which may in practice have a significant impact on the prisoner’s future management in prison or on his future reviews, such as reports of poor behaviour or recommendations that particular courses should be undertaken to reduce risk, it will usually follow that an oral hearing should be allowed for that reason alone, even if there is no doubt that the prisoner should remain in custody or in closed conditions (see eg Roose v Parole Board [2010] EWHC 1780 (Admin)).” [96]