Prisoners' Transfers

Northern Ireland written question – answered on 18th February 2008.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to prevent the exploitation by prisoners in Northern Ireland of the system of transfer to other prisons in the rest of the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The transfer of prisoners between UK jurisdictions is governed by Schedule 1 to the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Each application is assessed on its individual merits, taking into consideration:

1. the purpose for which the transfer is requested;

2. whether the prisoner was ordinarily resident in the jurisdiction to which transfer is sought prior to the imposition of the current sentence; or whether members of the prisoner's close family are resident in that jurisdiction and there are reasonable grounds for believing that the prisoner will receive regular visits from them; or whether the prisoner has demonstrated through preparations that he has made for his life following release from prison that he intends to reside in the receiving jurisdictions upon release and he is in the later stages of his sentence;

3. whether there are grounds for believing that the prisoner may disrupt or attempt to disrupt any prison establishment, or pose an unacceptable risk to security; and

4. any compelling or compassionate circumstances.

Prisoners are only transferred from Northern Ireland to serve their sentences in England and Wales if they meet these criteria.

I have instructed the Director of the Prison Service to refer any request for a transfer to England and Wales by a prisoner serving a sentence in Northern Ireland, to me.

Prisoners transferred to England and Wales could potentially benefit from the 18-day end of custody licence scheme if they met the criteria for that scheme which includes the provision that the sentence must be less than four years.

If it is clear that the sole purpose of the transfer application is to gain advantage from the ECL, that application would be refused.

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