When is a delay in an administrative decision too long?

Prisoner C made a parole application to the Queensland Parole Board on 5 February 2014. Due to various delays and referrals, the Board took 471 days to reach its decision of refusal, well beyond the maximum 210 days allowed under the Corrective Services Act 2006.

After C commenced proceedings to review the said parole refusal the matter came before the Supreme Court of Queensland on 18 November 2016. At the conclusion of those proceedings Justice Burns directed further submissions be supplied in writing with respect to the issues identified. His Honour Justice Burns further encouraged C to seek legal representation and suggested he engaged the Prisoners Legal Service to assist in preparing such submissions.

The PLS sought to amend the original application, by confirming C continued to challenge the decision of refusing parole, but on the sole ground that the Queensland Parole Board failed to make the decision within the specified time as provided for by s193(3) of the Corrective Services Act 2006.

The PLS argued that the decision refusing parole was reviewable on the basis that the procedures that were required by law to be observed in relation to the making of the decision were not observed. The PLS further argued that there had been a failure on the part of the Queensland Parole Board to make a decision required by s.227(1) of the CSA and paragraph 5.6 of the Ministerial guidelines.

Justice Burns affirmed that the Queensland Parole Board exceeding the statutory time limits did not remove their jurisdiction to decide the application, but it did formulate a ground to seek judicial review. The reasons for the delay were irrelevant; the ground of review had been established due to the delay. As noted by Justice Burns at page 9 of his judgement: –

“It is nevertheless clear that the failure on the part of the Board to decide C’s application within 210 days meant that the procedures required by law to be observed in relation to the making of the decision were not observed: s20(2)(b) JRA. Although s 193 CSA does not go to jurisdiction, it is still an important procedural provision that the Board is not free to ignore”. 

His Honour also found that, while the Queensland Parole Board was not required to give an indication to what programs should be completed, the Board was required to make a decision as to whether or not to give such an indication. This decision is separate to the decision on whether or not to grant parole.

At page 13 of his judgement Justice Burns stated: –

“In circumstances where, having refused parole and given reasons for that refusal, the Board had a duty to decide whether to give an indication within the meaning of par 5.6 of the Ministerial Guidelines but no decision was made, a ground of review under s 22(2) of the JRA is made out”. 

As C had ultimately received a decision regarding his parole application, Justice Burns decided that a declaration would not be beneficial. His Honour did however order that the Queensland Parole Board must make a decision about whether an indication should be given to C regarding what programs he could complete to improve his chances of parole.

This decision confirms that administrative decision makers must make their decisions in a timely manner, and must make every decision required of them, thus ensuring that our legal administration is completed in a timely and complete manner.

For more information about this case, please visit the Supreme Court’s Library at: http://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2016/QSC16-003.pdf

PLS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded in Australia.

PHONE: 07 3846 5074

Copyright © 2021 Prisoners’ Legal Service | Privacy Policy | Powered by Ember Web Solutions