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Indeterminate Sentences

Volume 555: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2012

The widely criticised indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection was abolished on 3 December. It has been replaced by a new regime of mandatory life sentences, which apply to anyone who is convicted for a second time of a very serious sexual or violent offence, and tough extended determinate sentences.

In a written answer published on 19 October, I was informed that 193 prisoners over the age of 60 were serving indeterminate sentences for public protection. Approximately 25 elderly high-risk prisoners are expected to be released in Greater Manchester, some of whom will have higher than average social care needs as well as a need for specialist supervision. What discussions have been taking place with local authorities about where those individuals are to be accommodated, and who will bear the cost?

As the hon. Lady will know, the probation service regularly engages in detailed discussions with local authorities to try to establish the right ways of dealing with individual offenders. In many parts of the country there is integrated offender management, which is designed to ensure that we provide the best possible support. My plans for a rehabilitation revolution will step up the support provided for such people, and will, I hope, ensure that we address issues such as where prisoners are to live after leaving prison.

On 25 April 2010, Irene Glen from Littlehampton opened the front door to her former partner Sean Benn. He came in and, with a kitchen knife, stabbed Mrs Glen 10 times. She was flown to London for several hours of emergency surgery, and mercifully survived. Sean Benn was convicted of wounding with intent, and was sentenced to detention in a secure hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. On Thursday, a tribunal will consider whether to release him, a mere two years after that horrific attack. Mrs Glen believes that he may attack her again, and is terrified for her life. What can she do to prevent Sean Benn from being released, and what can we do to protect my constituent?

I shall look carefully at the case to which my hon. Friend has referred. Matters relating to release are handled independently by the different tribunals and assessment services that are there to decide whether it is safe to release a prisoner, and I should obviously be concerned to hear of circumstances in which a potentially dangerous prisoner was to be released. My Department will certainly be able to discuss with my hon. Friend whether there are any ways in which we can help either to support his constituent or to influence the process, should that prove necessary.