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Fixed-term Recalls

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 24 January 2017

An offender who is assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm will receive a standard recall. Thereafter, they will be re-released before the end of their sentence only if the risk they pose is reduced and they can be safely managed in the community. In cases that are not high risk, however, a fixed-term recall is often a more appropriate response.

It is bad enough that prisoners are automatically released halfway through the sentence, whether or not they still pose a risk to the public, but when someone released on licence from prison then reoffends, surely the least the public can expect is that the criminals concerned are sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their prison sentence in full. Instead, a huge number of these people are simply recalled to prison for just 28 days on a fixed-term recall, sometimes on multiple occasions. How does the Minister justify this fraud on the British public?

As I said, where a high risk is posed, the prisoner will not be re-released before the end of their sentence. Offenders on licence who are charged with a further offence and assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm receive a standard recall. If they are convicted of a further offence, they get a fresh sentence.

In a recent case in Northern Ireland, someone charged with a serious terrorist offence in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black absconded when he was on bail, and the police did not report that to the courts for over five weeks. Is the Minister aware of that, and has he had any discussions with the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland to take this matter forward?

That is only tangentially related to the question on the Order Paper, and I think that is a generous statement, but the Minister is a dextrous fellow, so let us hear from him.

The straightforward answer is that I am not aware of that particular case and I am willing to take it up with the hon. Gentleman.

Some in the justice system have raised fears that recall is used too readily by community rehabilitation companies because they are disincentivised from investing time in those they consider will not be able to complete their community sentence. What assessment has the Minister made of the use of recall by community rehabilitation companies?

The hon. Lady makes a good point about the process whereby community rehabilitation companies have to justify the grounds for recall to officials in the National Offender Management Service before going ahead. Where officials do not find grounds for recall, they will then challenge the community rehabilitation companies. It is important to recognise that sometimes recalling an offender who is in breach of their licence allows the offender manager to put in place the appropriate mechanisms to manage them in the community.