Written 12th March 2014 by Olliers Solicitors

Changes to the regulations relating to day release are to be introduced after a series of serious crimes committed by prisoners on days out of prison. The case of murderer Ian McLoughlin last summer was one of three serious failures cited by the Ministry of Justice as being behind the rationale for the changes.

As a result of the changes prisoners will now only be allowed out for a specific purpose, such as work experience, and day-release prisoners will also have to wear electronic tags.

Serious Failures

The Ministry of Justice cited three serious failures as being behind the move, including the conviction of McLoughlin for murdering Graham Buck in the village of Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, in July last year, while on day release. McLoughlin, who had killed twice before, was sentenced to a whole life order. Another incident, which led to an offender being convicted of attempted robbery, also prompted the change, the department said.

The prisons minister, Jeremy Wright, said:

“We’re not prepared to see the failures of last summer repeated and public safety compromised.

“Temporary release can be an important tool in helping offenders reintegrate but it should not be an automatic right and we must do all we can to ensure it does not lead to a permanent blight on innocent members of society.

“The system has been too lax up to now and that must change.

“In future when prisoners are let out on licence I want to be sure they are tagged and strictly risk-assessed so we know where they have been and can be sure that they have been tested in the community under strict conditions before being released.”

Commitment to Change

The Ministry of Justice indicated that prisoners eligible for release on temporary licence would have to earn it by demonstrating the “right behaviour and a commitment to change”. It will no longer be an automatic right which is given when prisoners are considered suitable for open conditions.

There will also be a more thorough assessment of risks before temporary release is allowed. For prisoners with a history of serious offending, there will be a new “restricted” level where they will undergo more stringent risk assessments by probation.

Campaigners criticised the move stating that day release was essential for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, commented:

“For a government committed to rehabilitation, justice ministers should feel ashamed that only a quarter of men, and fewer than one in 10 women, leave prison with a job to go to, and proud that their well-established release on temporary licence programme has worked over years to help thousands of prisoners go straight on release.

“Now, in the face of a thankfully few terrible cases, and for the sake of a tough headline, they risk destroying a programme that has proved its worth instead of investigating its few failures and learning from its many successes.”

Jeremy Pinson

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