Date: 11 May 2020
Court: Supreme Court of Queensland
Judicial Officer: Bradley J
Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) Sections: ss 11(1), 13(1), (2)(b)-(e), 29(1), 30(1)
Rights Considered: Right to liberty
Other Legislation: Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld), ss 3, 242E; Judicial Review Act 1991 (Qld), ss 20, 23

Keywords: Prisoner; Parole; Judicial review

A prisoner applied for judicial review of the decision of the Parole Board of Queensland (‘the Board’) to refuse to grant his application for a parole order. Bradley J referenced the fact that, in reaching its decision, the Board must balance the legitimate competing interests of the applicant and the public, including the applicant’s common law and statutory right to liberty.

In 1997, Rodney John Johnson pleaded guilty to the murder of his partner and three of the four children of her earlier marriage, and to the attempted murder and the rape of the fourth child. He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mr. Johnson became eligible for parole in 2009 after serving 13 years in custody. He since made a number of applications for a parole order, which were refused.

Mr. Johnson applied for a parole order on 3 September 2018, which the Board refused on 2 April 2019. He subsequently applied for judicial review of the Board’s decision and sought an order to set aside the decision under the Judicial Review Act 1991 (Qld). He argued that the decision was affected by an improper exercise of power because the refusal was unreasonable, the Board failed to take relevant considerations into account, and applied a rule or policy without regard to the merits of his case: at [1]. He also argued that there was a breach of the rules of natural justice: at [1].

Bradley J held that, in forming an opinion about the risk a prisoner would pose to the community if released on parole, the Board must ‘weigh the reasonableness and importance of community safety and crime prevention, which may be advanced by continued detention, in light of the applicant’s common law right to liberty:’ at [24]. His Honour also reiterates the obligation of the Board to consider the right to liberty provided under the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld): at [24].

His Honour goes on to consider the merits of Mr. Johnson’s application, making no further reference to the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld). His Honour held that Mr. Johnson has not established any of the grounds on which he challenges the Board’s decision to refuse the parole application, and that the application for judicial review should be dismissed: at [58].

Visit the reported judgement: Johnson v Parole Board of Queensland [2020] QSC 108