EASTER is a time for new beginnings. As with Christianity and the countryside, so it was this year with the justice system. Before the weekend, Nick Hardwick, head of the parole board in England and Wales, resigned following criticism of the board’s handling of a high-profile case. On Easter Monday Alison Saunders, boss of the Crown Prosecution Service, said she would leave when her tenure expires later this year. The tabloids led a hallelujah chorus; resurrection seems unlikely.

Ms Saunders has taken flak for bungles over evidence-disclosure and for charging paedophiles and dodgy journalists who turned out to be neither. Yet she claims the government did not try to dissuade her from applying for a second term.

Mr Hardwick’s exit is the more significant. He was in effect sacked by David Gauke, the justice secretary, on March 27th. The next day, the High Court published the conclusions of a judicial review into the parole board’s decision to release John Worboys, a taxi driver who was jailed in 2009 for sexually assaulting 12 women. He is thought to have attacked about 90 more. The judges criticised the board for not asking enough questions about Mr Worboys’s offences, both alleged and proven. Mr Hardwick claims Mr Gauke told him the ruling made his position “untenable”. He duly resigned.

Some worry that this compromises the board’s independence. They argue that Mr Hardwick is a sacrificial lamb, since the justice minister was represented at the board’s original hearing and it was his department’s job to include all relevant evidence in the dossier submitted to the board. “The parole board is effectively being punished for taking a decision that is politically inconvenient,” says Peter Dawson of the Prison Reform Trust, a charity. He would like the board, which is supervised by the Ministry of Justice, to become a tribunal, answerable only to judges.

Others are concerned about a review into the board that the government launched in January, following complaints about the release of Mr Worboys. The case was unusual because of the large discrepancy between the number of allegations and convictions, and because the parole board is generally “very risk-averse”, says Don Grubin, a forensic psychiatrist who often gives evidence at its hearings: “The Worboys case is the exception.” Less than 1% of prisoners whom the board releases or recommends moving to open prisons commit a further serious offence.

Yet the review could recommend big changes. Some would be welcome, such as scrapping a rule that forbids the panel to explain its decisions. A thornier issue is whether greater weight should be given to unproven allegations. Hearings can already consider them alongside convictions, but the government plans to emphasise this power. Mr Dawson says it could create a dilemma for prisoners: take the blame for unproven allegations, or deny them and risk being judged dishonest.

A new panel will now consider whether to release Mr Worboys. The judges made no ruling on the original panel’s decision, so different people could reach the same conclusion. But Mr Grubin says that is unlikely, not least for political reasons. “I bet you any money that won’t happen.”