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Prisoners Release

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Harborough of 11 November 2009, Official Report, columns 487-88W, on prisoners’ release, how many of the 192 prisoners released in error since 2005 remain at large; for how long they have been at large; what estimate he has made of the number of reoffences they have committed after release; and of what nature. (301007)

Prison establishments are required to report known releases in error to the intelligence and operations unit in National Offender Management Service headquarters. However, the incident reporting system does not hold records of these events in a format which can be interrogated electronically to obtain the specific information requested.

Since my reply to the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) on 11 November was compiled, some additional cases have been identified and the total number of releases in error now reported, and the outcomes, is as follows:

Total releases in error reported to the incident reporting system

Number of these who have subsequently been back in custody

Number of these who have since appeared in court

Number for whom there is no record of subsequent contact with the criminal justice system

2005

43

34

8

1

2006

48

40

4

14

2007

35

31

3

1

2008

58

49

5

4

2009 (to 30 September)

35

28

4

3

Total

219

182

24

113

1 Includes one former prisoner known to be deceased.

Not all prisoners released in error will be unlawfully at large. For example, they may be released on a valid licence or have been unconvicted prisoners whose cases have now been concluded without a custodial sentence. As the table shows, there are only 12 surviving ex-prisoners who have not been back into the criminal justice system since their release in error. Further inquiries are being made to ensure all appropriate action is being taken to locate them.

Most prisoners released in error are returned to custody quickly. While we are aware of one case in which a prisoner released in error committed a serious offence in 2005, there is otherwise no indication from the available information of any significant level of offending by prisoners who should have been in custody at the time.