Prison day release rules to be tightened, minister says

File photo dated 07/11/03 of a prison cell Image copyright PA

Day release from prison is to be scaled back following a series of serious crimes committed by offenders temporarily out of jail.

Tighter rules about who is eligible for the scheme are to be introduced, the Ministry of Justice said.

Prisoners will only be allowed out for a specific purpose, such as work experience, and day-release prisoners will also have to wear electronic tags.

Campaigners criticised the move, saying there had been only a few failures.

But the MoJ cited several of the cases in which there had been serious failings as being behind the move.

They include that of Ian McLoughlin, who was convicted of murdering Graham Buck in the village of Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, last July, while on day release.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ian McLoughlin was on day release when he murdered Graham Buck

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.

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."

'Terrible cases'

The MoJ said that, from now on, 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 considered an automatic right which is given when inmates are deemed suitable for open conditions.

There will also be a more thorough assessment of risks before temporary release is authorised.

For prisoners with a history of serious crimes, there will be a new "restricted" level where they will undergo stringent risk assessments by probation and other professionals.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "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."

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