Early jail release to be curtailed under government plans

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Media captionChris Grayling: "I don't want to see those people walking the streets until they are not a risk to the public"

People jailed for child rape or some terror offences will no longer be automatically released from jail halfway through their sentences, under government plans for England and Wales.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he also wants to curtail the early release of prisoners serving extended sentences for the most serious crimes.

About 600 prisoners a year are expected to be affected by the proposals.

Campaigners warned of the likely impact on an "over-burdened" Parole Board.

Serious crimes

Under rules created in 2003, most prisoners serving fixed-term sentences are eligible for release on a conditional licence into the community at the halfway point of their sentence, unless they have been guilty of poor behaviour in jail.

Others jailed for the most serious crimes are subjected to an extended determinate sentence (EDS), which means they are released on licence only after serving two-thirds of it.

Under the new proposals, neither people serving an EDS - a system devised just over a year ago - or those convicted of child rape nor a range of terrorism offences would be automatically released on licence.

Instead they would have to prove to the Parole Board that they were no longer dangerous and a risk to society before they could be freed.

The Ministry of Justice said the proposals would require primary legislation that would go before Parliament in the new year.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "It's outrageous that offenders who commit some truly horrific crimes in this country are automatically released from prison halfway through their custodial sentence, regardless of their behaviour, attitude and engagement in their own rehabilitation.

"We need to teach criminals a lesson; you will be punished for your crime and you must earn your release, it is not an automatic right."

In a statement, the Parole Board said that it supported "a more consistent approach to release arrangements" for the offenders who would be covered by the changes.

It added: "Protecting the public is the primary concern of the Parole Board and any measures that ensure offenders are only released from custody following a rigorous assessment of risk are welcomed."

'Public not safer'

But Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Today's announcement may grab headlines but it will not make the public safer.

"When prisoners are released early, they do at least receive supervision from the probation service for the remainder of their sentence, with the threat of recall to prison always present.

"We fear this move will only serve to further clog up the Parole Board, which is already under-resourced and over-burdened."

The terrorist offences covered by the changes include directing a terrorist organisation, inciting terrorism overseas and use of a nuclear weapon.

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