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Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what criteria are adopted when releasing prisoners on parole.

Northern Ireland does not have a parole scheme on the model of Great Britain. Prisoners, other than those serving very short terms, may be granted short periods of home leave near the end of their sentences. This is normally granted to those applying for it unless, because of a prisoner's behaviour in custody, it appears that it should be withheld in the public interest.

Will the Minister get together with the Home Secretary to ensure that, when the Northern Ireland authorities grant home leave to prisoners near the end of a sentence, those prisoners are not arrested and detained in prison when they reach Great Britain, without experiencing home leave, and sent straight back to the prison from which they have come? This is grossly unfair, entirely unjust and should be brought to an end. Will the hon. Gentleman have discussions with the Home Secretary about the matter?

I am aware of the case to which the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr.Cryer) is referring. The prison from which the prisoner in question was released for home leave did inform the West Yorkshire police that he was going home. The hon. Gentleman will understand that, even then, there can be no certainty that the chief officer of police in West Yorkshire can himself decide what action to take without looking at a particular case and interviewing the prisoner himself. It was, however, a case without precedent. We are seeking, in collaboration with the Home Office, to see whether this kind of incident can be avoided in the future.