Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus

(asked on 5th May 2020) - View Source

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, following their decision to release low-risk prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, how many such prisoners have been released so far; and, what steps they are taking (1) to widen the criteria to include more prisoners convicted of non-violent and petty crimes, (2) to consider temporary release alongside early release, (3) to suspend the imposition of sentences under six months, and (4) to consider the release of elderly prisoners who do not pose a serious risk to the public.

Answered by
Lord Keen of Elie
This question was answered on 19th May 2020

As of 11 May, 78 prisoners have been released early; 52 were released as part of the End of Custody Temporary Release (ECTR) scheme, and 26 were released on compassionate grounds.

The ECTR scheme is aimed at low-risk offenders approaching the end of their sentence and therefore will include prisoners convicted of some, but not all, non-violent and petty crimes. The eligible offences have been chosen to strike the right balance between protecting the public and reducing transmission in prisons.

Releases are just one part of a wider strategy to create headroom, including by increasing the capacity of the existing prison estate. Modelling suggests that the headroom reduction required to implement compartmentalisation of prisons as a control on the spread of the virus is around 5,500. We are on track to achieving this target.

We have no plans to end short term prison sentences. Sentencing is a matter for our independent courts, taking into account the circumstances of each case and following any relevant sentencing guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council. A custodial sentence should always be a last resort.

Elderly and acutely medically vulnerable prisoners who have been thoroughly risk-assessed are in scope for early release on compassionate grounds.

Reticulating Splines