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Prisoners Release

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many and what percentage of convicted murderers had served less than half of their custodial sentence at the point of release in the last five years; how many of them committed a serious crime in the six months after their release; and if he will make a statement. (252557)

When an offender is convicted of murder, the courts must hand down a life sentence. Such a sentence will include a minimum tariff which must be served before the offender can be considered by the Parole Board for release. This tariff is set by the courts and is the minimum term required for retribution and deterrence, which is set in line with Section 269 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

As a rule, no life sentence prisoner is released before the expiry of their tariff, although there are provisions under the Section 30 of the Crime Sentences Act 1997 for the compassionate release of life or other indeterminate sentenced prisoners. Compassionate release is granted only in the most exceptional circumstances and normally only when the prisoner is terminally ill and close to death.

In the period of 2002-08. there were just 16 compassionate releases of life or other indeterminate sentence prisoners, none of whom have been reported as having gone on to commit further serious crimes.