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Prisoners Release

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will assess the merits of increasing the period of time a person with a terminal illness can be released early from prison on compassionate grounds. (308552)

Early release on compassionate grounds should only be permitted in the most exceptional circumstances and where the risk of reoffending is past. It is right, therefore, to apply stringent criteria. Prisoners with a terminal illness can receive the appropriate care and treatment while in custody and we believe that early release from their sentence should only be considered in the final stages or where they become too ill to remain in prison. The criteria applied in medical circumstances state:

“the prisoner is suffering from a terminal illness and death is likely to occur soon; or the prisoner is bedridden or similarly incapacitated”.

The three-month period is suggested as a guide for the sort of life expectancy that should be taken into consideration when applying the criteria but is just one of a number of factors that are taken into account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) offenders and (b) offenders on temporary licence were released from HM Prison Service into the Probation Service, in each year since 2004. (309218)

Adult offenders serving a sentence of 12 months or more and all young offenders under 22 years of age are, upon release, subject to supervision by the probation services.

These figures are published annually in Offender Management Caseload Statistics (OMCS). Copies are in the House of Commons Libraries and on the MOJ website at:

The following table shows the number of discharges from determinate sentences from prisons in England and Wales. The figures are the sum of adult prisoners released from sentences of 12 months or more (including indeterminate sentences) and all young offender releases.

Prisoners released











Data for 2009 will be available in the OMCS 2009 which will be published in July 2010.

Prisoners released on temporary licence remain the responsibility of the prison during the period of temporary release. However, where prisoners are liable to supervision on their normal release date but are released early under the End of Custody Licence scheme, they are required to meet their probation officer during the ECL licence period and to have regular contact after that in line with their supervision programme.

The number of ECL releases for those prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or more and less than four years for the year 2007 and 2008 was 2,941 and 5,643. Data for 2007 are based on the period from 29 June, when the scheme started, to 31 December.

All figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.