Press release

Automatic 'early release' axed for child rapists and terrorists

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

In a radical overhaul of sentencing, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling today announced that criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child or terrorism offences will no longer be automatically released at the half-way point of their prison sentence.

Alongside this, criminals who receive the new tough Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) will no longer be released automatically two-thirds of the way into their custodial sentence. This means that many of them will end up spending significantly more time in prison.

Under the proposals announced today these criminals will only be released before the end of their custodial term under strict conditions at the discretion of the independent Parole Board. Before the Parole Board releases any criminal they must be convinced they no longer pose a threat to society and that they have engaged with, and continue to engage with, their own rehabilitation. Unless they address their offending behaviour criminals can expect to serve their entire custodial term in prison.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

‘It’s outrageous that offenders who commit some truly horrific crimes in this country are automatically released from prison halfway through their custodial sentence, regardless of their behaviour, attitude and engagement in their own rehabilitation.

‘This Government is on the side of people who play by the rules and want to get on. We need to teach criminals a lesson; you will be punished for your crime and you must earn your release, it is not an automatic right.’

The changes will require primary legislation which will be bought forward in the new year. The changes are likely affect around 600 criminals per year who will only be released before the end of their prison sentence if they are deemed safe by the independent Parole Board.

The changes to automatic half-way release will apply to criminals who receive a determinate sentence for selected offences against children under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including rape of a child, and a range of terrorism offences including possession of an article for terrorist purposes, inciting terrorism overseas and preparation of terrorist acts.

At present criminals convicted of certain offences such as grievous bodily harm with intent, who the courts believe are dangerous, can receive an Extended Determinate Sentence where they must serve two-thirds of their sentence before they are released into the community under strict conditions. For some offenders their release is automatic, others are subject to the discretion of the Parole Board. Under the proposals announced today every offender who receives an EDS will only be released into the community, before the end of their prison sentence, if the Parole Board believe they no longer pose a risk to society.

Notes to editors

1 Determinate sentences are prison sentences where the court sets a fixed length for the prison sentence. The offender serves half of the sentence in custody and half of the sentence on licence in the community.

2 The changes to the automatic ‘half-way’ release will apply to the following offences:

From the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

  • Rape of a child under 13 (and attempts)
  • Assault on a child under 13 by penetration (and attempts)

General offences used in terrorism cases

  • Attempted murder, soliciting murder, conspiracy to murder, (where there are terrorist purposes)

Terrorism Act 2000

  • Directing a terrorist organisation (s 56)
  • Possession of an article for terrorist purposes (s 57)
  • Inciting terrorism overseas (s 59)

Anti-terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001

  • Use etc of nuclear weapons (s 47)
  • Assisting or inducing weapons-related acts overseas (s 50)
  • Use of noxious substance or thing to cause harm or intimidate (s 113)

Terrorism Act 2006

  • Preparation of terrorist acts (s 5)
  • Making or possession of radioactive device or material (s 9)
  • Use of radioactive device or material for terrorist purposes (s 10)
  • Terrorist threats relating to radioactive devices (s 11)

Terrorism Act 2000

  • Weapons training (s 54)

Terrorism Act 2006

  • Training for terrorism (s 6)

Explosive Substances Act 1883

  • Causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property (S 2)
  • Intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or property (S 3)
  • Possession of explosives (S 4)

Offences against the Person Act 1861

  • Causing bodily injury by gunpowder or other explosive substance (S 28)
  • Causing gunpowder or other explosive substance to explode with intent (S 29

3 Extended Determinate Sentences came into effect on 3 December 2012 and were introduced in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 for dangerous offenders to replace the Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP).

Extended Determinate Sentences are sentences where the offender will receive a custodial sentence plus a further long extended period of licence set by the court. Offenders receiving this sentence will serve at least two-thirds of the custodial term. In serious cases offenders will have to apply to the Parole Board for early release at the two-thirds point, but may serve the whole custodial term in prison.

The new sentence can be given for any sexual or violent offence provided that in the individual case (a) the court thinks the offender presents a risk of causing serious harm through re-offending; and (b) the offence meets the 4 year seriousness threshold or (for adults only) previous offending threshold which were in place for IPPs.

They are available for people convicted of offences listed in Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 – this is a comprehensive list of violent and sexual offences ranging from attempted murder and rape to affray and exposure - there are over 150 offences in Schedule 15.