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Jan 15 2007

Labour giving criminals a break as they walk free from local jails

Worrying new figures expose scandal of convicted criminals being let out early

New analysis of Government statistics revealed that 954 criminals have been let out of prison before finishing their sentences across London since June, under Labour’s controversial new early release scheme. In Wormwood Scrubs, 239 criminals have been let out onto the streets.

Across the country, 11,000 criminals have already walked out of prison early under the ‘end of custody licence’ system, with an estimated 25,500 criminals to be let out over a full year. They include violent offenders and foreign nationals convicted of serious offences. The scheme was introduced because a shortage in prison places, thanks to a funding crisis caused by Gordon Brown.

Labour Ministers are now planning a new sentencing quango, which would, for the first time, link sentences to prison capacity, so that when jails are full, criminals could receive shorter sentences or not be sent to prison at all.

Bob Blackman said:
“By definition, being sent to prison means someone has committed a serious offence. Yet Labour is giving criminals a break, by letting them loose on Harrow’s streets.

“Serious crimes should be punished by a prison sentence, not least to protect the public. It is no wonder that violent crime has doubled under this Government when Gordon Brown is giving the culprits a ‘get out of jail’ card this Christmas. This is fundamentally wrong. Sentences should fit the crime, not this week’s prison capacity.”

Conservatives are calling for:

  • An immediate halt to the early release scheme, and the introduction of an emergency prison places programme using the savings from scrapping the flawed Identity Card scheme.
  • Doubling the sentencing powers of magistrates to 12 months and repealing any new restrictions on their ability to hand down suspended sentences.
  • Honesty in sentencing so that convicted criminals serve the minimum sentence handed down to them by the courts.
  • Sufficient prison capacity to hold all those sentenced by the courts – and reforming prison regimes to break the cycle of re-offending.

Notes to Editors

LABOUR Giving criminals a break

The Government is trying to deal with the continuing shortfall in prison places by watering down sentences and attempting to restrict the ability of courts to send offenders to prison.

  • The Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill, currently before the House of Commons, ends magistrates’ powers to impose a suspended sentence, and limits the period served in custody by offenders who breach their licence conditions to just 28 days.
  • The Government plans to restrict the use of its flagship Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). There will be a minimum tariff of two years below which Judges will no longer be able be impose an IPP. This would affect half the cases in which IPPs are currently imposed for threats to kill, arson, sexual assault, sexual activity with a child, and most cases of sexual assault on a child under 13.  The whole point of these sentences was to protect the public, ensuring that offenders could not be released until they were judged no longer to be a threat.  Now they will be released automatically.
  • A new Sentencing Commission will, for the first time, link sentences to resources, so that when jails are full, criminals could receive shorter sentences or not be sent to prison at all.

  • It appears that the End of Custody Licence scheme, under which 11,000 offenders have already been released from jail 18 days early, will now continue indefinitely – even though it was meant to be a temporary measure.  The Government expects to release 25,500 offenders early in a single year.

LOCAL FIGURES

The Government has published figures showing the number of criminals that have been let out of prison early, under the Government’s early release scheme. The figures below show the number let out from June to October.

Source: Ministry of Justice, End of Custody Licence Statistics, December 2007.