End of Custody Licence Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 16th June 2009.

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Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Conservative, Croydon South 2:30 pm, 16th June 2009

When he estimates the Government will be in a position to bring the end of custody licence scheme to an end.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

As I have made clear to the House, I will withdraw the end of custody licence scheme as soon as we have sufficient headroom in the prison system to do that.

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Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Conservative, Croydon South

Having given 10,102 violent offenders early release, I am sure that it comes as no surprise to the Secretary of State that 1,000 offences, including three murders and two rapes, were committed by end of custody licensees who were released and should have been in prison. Does he need any more evidence to show that the scheme is a shambles, out of date and should be brought to an end as soon as possible?

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Thankyou. At least some people can see what a shambles this scheme is.

Submitted by alex jonson

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

As it happens, the reoffending rate on the scheme is very low. Of course, I regret any offending by prisoners, but the scheme is much more effective for dealing with the pressure on prison places than the scheme that the previous Conservative Administration adopted. One day—I was in the House when it happened—they let out 3,500 prisoners just like that, without any sort of effective supervision. Prisoners who, among other things, have committed offences of serious violence, are excluded from the scheme. If there were a Conservative Administration, who would cut the prison budget by £200 million, they would have to introduce a grand ECL scheme to cut the number of available prison places. That is what their policy means—they have not excluded Home Office or Ministry of Justice services from their 10 per cent. cuts.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Does my right hon. Friend have an estimate of the number of additional prison places that would be required if the end of custody licence scheme came to an end and what the cost of providing them would be?

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

We are committed to ending the end of custody licence scheme, because it was a temporary measure, and we are working hard to do that. We have greatly increased capacity, with one of the fastest-ever building programmes, particularly over the past three to four years, and thousands of new places are coming on stream. The average number of prisoners on ECL at any one point is between 1,200 and 1,450, so that is the headroom that we need before we can abolish it, but I am determined to do so.

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