Specialist Prison Law Solicitor, Jeremy Pinson, advises on effective sentence planning for sex offenders
If you are unfortunate to receive a custodial sentence following conviction for a sexual offence there can be a variety of issues which can arise during incarceration.
Recent legislation has had a dramatic effect on those who are made subject to release by the Parole Board, with the majority of individuals who are convicted being released automatically at the half way point in their sentence.
Release by the Parole Board
Release by the Parole Board now relates primarily to existing long term prisoners who at the time of sentence were subject to a sentence which attracted a parole eligibility date.
The Parole Board still deal with the release of all individuals subject to indeterminate sentences within the system, recent legislation however abolished the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) and therefore short term tariff prisoners will be existing prisoners who remain in the system.
Sex Offender Treatment Programme
For those who have been convicted of a sexual offence the likelihood is that they will serve the majority of their sentence in a specialist prison which houses vulnerable prisoners. These specialist prisons run various specific offence focused treatment programmes, an example is the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) which is designed specifically for those who have been convicted of a sexual offence.
It is worth noting however that the SOTP requires a prerequisite admission of guilt to attend the programme, therefore if you are an active appellant or intend to appeal at some point in the future it would not be advisable to undertake the programme as it will involve discussion of the prosecution case and acceptance of guilt.
There are also other courses such as the Healthy Relationship Programme which require admissions in relation to issues such as domestic violence which again can raise issues for those undertaking an appeal against their conviction.
It always an idea to seek legal advice on such matters before undertaking sentence plan work if you are in a particular position, this work is no longer covered by legal aid.
What type of licence conditions will be imposed?
Whilst in terms of release the Parole Board are not involved in the majority of recently imposed sentences all those who are released for custody will be subject to licence conditions. For those considered to be low risk they will be subject to a standard licence which as the term suggests is standard in form and contains the same set of conditions.
However for those convicted of sexual offences the licence will be specifically tailored to deal with perceived areas of risk usually with significant input from a designated probation officer or offender manager as they are now known. This form of licence can be extremely restrictive in terms of contact with individuals, where one can reside, what work can be undertaken and whether devices can be used which have the power to access the internet (this list is not exhaustive).
When could someone be recalled to custody?
The licence element of the sentence is policed by the offender manager who has the power to recall an individual back to prison for an alleged ‘breach’ of licence conditions. A further offence does not need to be committed, if an offender manager is of the opinion that an individual is acting in a manner which is likely to undermine the purpose of supervision that being to protect the public they can return an individual to custody.
There is no police interview or court appearance, once a breach notification has been issued by the Ministry of Justice a warrant will be issued and the individual in question will be arrested by the police and immediately returned to custody.
The licence itself can often be for a lengthy period and it is often a good idea to seek legal advice in relation to aspects of the licence and potential breaches, the conditions should be reasonable and proportionate but the primary consideration is protection of the public, again such advice is no longer available on legal aid.
What happens after someone has been recalled to custody?
Once an individual is recalled to custody the release will be subject to a decision by the Parole Board if it is perceived that the breach has resulted in an increase in serious harm. If the recall is therefore on a ‘standard’ basis the matter will automatically be referred to the Parole Board who have the power to direct release but apply a different test for release based on risk to the public. It is often the case that the Parole Board will refer the matter to an oral hearing which will require specialist advice and representation.
Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Prison Lawyers
Written by Jeremy Pinson, specialist prison lawyer. Jeremy has conducted a wide range of public law actions on behalf of serving prisoners and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Prison Lawyers . He has also been involved in numerous challenges to the Parole Board by way of Judicial Review and continues to represent prisoners in relation to applications before the Parole Board. If you require advice in relation to sentence planning please contact us on 0161 8341515.