End of Custody Supervised Licence

Justice – in the House of Commons at on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Shadow Minister (Tech and Digital Economy)

How many prisoners have been released early under the end of custody supervised licence scheme since October 2023.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

End of custody supervised licence began in October 2023. Analysis of and statistics on its use will be based on one year’s worth of data and published on an annualised basis in line with other statistics, such as deaths of offenders in the community. We consider that to be the appropriate approach.

Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Shadow Minister (Tech and Digital Economy)

Earlier this month, the Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill, who is in his place, said that prisons are at “bursting point”, while the Prison Governors’ Association said that without the extension of the ECSL scheme, our criminal justice system

“may have ground to a halt”.

Meanwhile, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner labelled the plans as

“dangerous to domestic abuse victims”.

Is the Minister satisfied that the scheme manages the prison population while keeping the victims of crime safe? If so, when will he release data about which prisoners have been released?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. There are a number of points there. The ECSL is a response to, yes, acute capacity challenges, but it is a targeted scheme operating in prisons as required and where necessary. I gently say to him that a similar scheme ran from 2007 to 2010. In that case, it bore significant differences to what is happening now. ECSL, as operating now, contains a range of important safeguards that were simply not in place between 2007 and 2010. The 2007-10 scheme released some people straight into the community without any supervision and led to the early release of some prisoners convicted of terror offences. This scheme is totally different. It plays a role in managing the prison capacity challenges, but it has those important safeguards in place to protect victims and society.

Photo of Andrea Jenkyns Andrea Jenkyns Conservative, Morley and Outwood

Our prisons are full, so much so that the Government are sanctioning the early release of inmates to make space. At what point will we prioritise the deportation of foreign criminals who are taking up one in nine of our prison cells, so that we can get back to zero-tolerance policing and ensure that no crime is too small to go unpunished?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because she is quite right to highlight that a key element of tackling the prison capacity crisis is sending back, through deportation, foreign national offenders. She will be reassured that 18,000 have been deported in the past four years and we continue to drive that target ever higher.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

It is telling that the Minister is refusing to come clean with the public on how many prisoners are being released early under the scheme. As we know, the public are overwhelmingly in favour of an early release scheme if it were applied to his colleagues in a general election. [Laughter.] Does he have any intention, before that happy day, of releasing the truth about how many prisoners are being let out early?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

It is always a pleasure to face the gentle barbs of the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for a long time. As I have made very clear on a previous occasion in the House, and indeed just a few moments ago, we consider that an annualised publication of these statistics is the most appropriate approach, in line with the publication of similar statistics such as those relating to deaths of offenders in the community.