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News Release

Embargoed to 14.30 hrs Thursday 18 July 2002

New Prisoner Release Analysis included in the Sentence Review Commissioners' Annual Report

Full Report

The fourth annual report to the Secretary of State by the Sentence Review Commissioners, the body which has overseen the early release of prisoners, was laid before Parliament today (Thurs 18 July). It covers the year up to 31 March 2002.

Most of the work of the Commissioners has been completed and this is reflected in only eight determinations being processed during the year.

In an appendix to the report, the Commissioners conduct for the first time a statistical analysis of the prison terms served by those granted early release.

A spokesperson for the Commissioners said, 'The impact of the scheme on
eligible prisoners varied considerably, with the majority being released
only a few years earlier than would otherwise have been the case but with a
small minority benefiting by ten years or more.'


More than two-thirds of life prisoners released under the scheme benefited by less than six years. About one in eight benefited by more than ten years.

The actual periods served by the life prisoners ranged from the minimum accelerated release period of two years to almost 15½ years. The average was just under ten years. Almost half of those who received early release had spent between 8 and 12 years in prison. Three served only the minimum two-year period.

Essentially, the prisoners fell into three groups. Those who had already served two-thirds or more of the likely period when the scheme was introduced in July 1998 stood to gain less than the statutory one-third reduction. They were released as soon as their applications could be processed and 44% of successful applicants fell into this category.

Those who reached the two-thirds point between July 1998 and July 2000 became eligible for release as soon as they did so. This accounts for the 'bulge' of some 30%. The remaining quarter benefited to varying degrees from the accelerated release provisions. These granted release on 28 July 2000 to any eligible prisoner who had at that point spent two years or more in prison, and release at the two-year point to any who had not served two years by that date.


In the absence of the early release scheme, prisoners would have been entitled to automatic release once they had served half of their 'index' sentence.

More than half of successful applicants had already served two-thirds or more of the half-sentence period when the scheme was introduced. Some 30% were released at the statutory two-thirds point. This left only one applicant in eight to benefit from the accelerated release provisions. Only ten prisoners served less than 40% of the period they would otherwise have served.

The period spent in prison reduced because of the early release scheme ranged from zero to 10½ years. The average was two years and one month. Eighty five per cent of fixed-term prisoners released under the scheme benefited by less than four years. Six prisoners benefited by more than eight years.

They fell into three main groups, with 26% having received sentences between five and eleven years, 29% between fourteen and seventeen years and 30% twenty years or more. The average sentence was just under 15½ years.

The periods actually served by successful applicants ranged from one year and eight months (half of a five-year sentence, less one third) to almost 12½ years. The average period served was just over five and a half years. 60% served between three and seven years


Note to editors: A full copy of the annual report will be available from 1430 hrs today (18 July 2002) on the Sentence Review Commissioners' web site at

Further information from Don Anderson 028 9181 7930 or 0780 3833180