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Sexual Offenders: Transfers to Open Prisons

Volume 683: debated on Tuesday 3 November 2020

What risk assessments are conducted prior to the transfer of people convicted of sexual offences to open prisons. (908303)

Access to open prison conditions is not a right, and there is no automatic progression. It is based on a detailed risk assessment. To be considered for open conditions, an individual must generally have served two to three years and have that time left to serve before the earliest release. In addition, a thorough risk assessment must be completed, considering the likelihood of the individual absconding and the risks to the public, as well as whether they are suited overall to the open estate.

I ask this question on behalf of my constituent, who I will call Elizabeth. For a decade, she was subjected to brutal abuse by a grooming gang in Rotherham. Because of her tenacity, she managed to secure convictions, including sentenced to an individual for nine years for two counts of child rape against her. After two and a half years, she discovered that he had been downgraded to an open prison. Neither Elizabeth nor the police were consulted about this or notified as part of a risk-assessment process, so one wonders whether it is just prison conduct that contributes to risk assessments. More concerningly, he is potentially up for weekend release, although that is not going to happen because of covid. In Elizabeth’s own words, how effective does the Minister think the release on temporary leave system is? I would appreciate a direct answer.

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this important and tragic case. She has written to me about it, and I hope that she has had the content of my letter back. I know that the service has already apologised to her constituent, and I apologise on its behalf, for not contacting her before the referral to open conditions. The victim liaison officer has made the offender manager aware of conditions that should be imposed on any release on temporary licence, so those will be taken into account should any ROTL be granted. I am happy to continue to discuss this case with the hon. Lady at any opportune moment.