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Prisoner Release Decisions

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:45 am on 20th October 2009.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland) 11:45 am, 20th October 2009

Again, we are in the realms of competing interests. Many people might feel that would have been a price worth paying, given the damage to Scotland's reputation when people saw flags flying on the tarmac in Libya when al-Megrahi was returned. Although the people we are talking about should be released from prison, it is important that there is no question of their being at the end of their involvement with the criminal justice system.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe suggested that the gravity of the offence and the length of time that has been served should be taken into account. Although those are clearly considerations, I must gently tell him that I am not persuaded that they should be primary considerations. I come back to the first principle that I elucidated-that we accept that everybody who is to be imprisoned can be released at some point. Our focus should be on the substance of the application for early release. As the hon. Gentleman suggested, we should consider whether we have robust, independently obtained medical evidence about the prisoner's condition. Thereafter, we should consider how we give effect to any decision, while respecting the feelings of the victims and families.