Release of serious offenders: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 factsheet (2023)

Release of serious offenders: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 factsheet (1)

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When a prison sentence is passed, yes, there is a period on licence during which the individual needs to readjust with the appropriate controls, but there has to be a clear signal that the bulk of their terms will be served behind bars. That is what the public expect; that is what will increase confidence in the system; and that is what we are doing.

Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland KBE QC MP, Former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

1. What are we going to do?

We are changing release arrangement for serious violent and sex offenders, as well as for those whose risk to the public increases during their time in custody, so that they serve longer in prison.

These changes have the protection of the public at their core and ensure a firm but fair justice system.

2. How are we going to do it?

2.1 Abolish automatic halfway release for certain serious offenders.

In April 2020 we brought in the Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2020 that ensured serious violent or sexual offenders who receive a Standard Determinate Sentence (SDS) of 7 years or more (for an offence for which the maximum penalty is life) are required to serve two-thirds of their sentence in custody instead of half. Following that change, which this Act will enshrine in primary legislation, we are also now applying the two-thirds release point requirement to certain serious violent and sexual offenders given a SDS of between 4 and 7 years.

These changes will apply to serious sexual offences and certain types of violent offences for which the maximum penalty is life; this will include rape, manslaughter and wounding with intent to cause GBH – but where the court decides that the particular circumstances of the case do not merit a Life Sentence or an Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) and imposes a SDS.

2.2 Increase the time sex offenders serving a SOPC must spend in prison.

Where someone receives a Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern (SOPC), the Act will ensure that they can only be released, at the earliest, after having served two-thirds of their custodial term (as opposed to halfway). Following that point, they can then be released at the discretion of a Parole Board, or they will remain in prison until the end of their sentence. SOPC sentences apply to specified terrorist offences and the two most serious child sex offences (rape of a child under 13 and sexual assault of a child under 13).

2.3 Introduce a new power to prevent the automatic early release of prisoners who become a public protection concern

We will introduce a new power to prevent the automatic release of prisoners serving a SDS who become a significant public protection concern while in custody, including where they present a risk to national security. The power will mean a case may be referred to the Parole Board to assess whether it is necessary to detain the prisoner for the protection of the public. If the prisoner is not released by the Parole Board, they will be released at the end of their sentence.

2.4 Make amendments to discretionary driving disqualification provisions

As a consequence of changes to the release framework brought last year for terrorist offenders and certain SDS offenders that ensure they serve longer in custody, we need to make corresponding changes to how courts impose driving disqualifications (when imposed with a custodial sentence) so the longer period served in prison doesn’t reduce the driving disqualification period that should be served in the community. To do so, we are updating the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and the Sentencing Act 2020 to reflect the new later release points for affected prisoners. We are also making amendments to the equivalent driving disqualification provisions in Scotland to ensure they continue to operate correctly and effectively.

3. Background

3.1 Abolish automatic halfway release for certain serious offenders

Under the new provisions in this Act, all ‘max-life’ sexual offences will attract a two-thirds release point if a SDS of 4 years or more is imposed, including for those convicted of rape. The release point change for violent offenders given an SDS of 4 to 7 years will target the most serious types of offence – those being manslaughter, soliciting murder, attempted murder and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Holding the most serious prisoners in custody until the two-thirds point will better reflect the gravity of the types of offences they have committed and will ensure the public are better protected.

3.2 SOPC (Sentences for Offenders of Particular Concern).

The Government has already ensured that terrorist offenders who receive a SOPC must serve at least two-thirds of their custodial term. This change will bring remaining SOPC offenders into line with those changes and other wider sentencing law changes that ensure that the most serious offenders spend more time in prison.

SOPC sentences apply to specified terrorist offences and the two most serious child sex offences (rape of a child under 13 and sexual assault of a child under 13). A SOPC must be imposed where there has been a conviction for one of the specified offences but the offending is not deemed serious enough to attract a life sentence and where the court assesses that the offender is not dangerous and therefore does not require an EDS.

3.3 Power to prevent automatic early release of prisoners who become a public protection concern.

The Government introduced emergency legislation after the terrorist attack in Streatham in February 2020 to ensure that those convicted of terrorist or terrorist-connected offences serving a SDS are not released before the end of their sentence without the approval of the Parole Board.

However, we want to ensure we also capture those offenders who are not convicted of a terrorism offence, but it later emerges that they pose a credible public protection concern. Those individuals should be reviewed by the Parole Board, to ensure that release at the halfway point is appropriate and safe.

The new power is intended to be used in rare cases where there is strong evidence which shows that the public may be at risk of serious harm or there may be a national security threat if the offender were to be released at their automatic release date. Instead, they can be referred to the Parole Board who can consider whether they are safe to release or whether they should continue to be detained until the end of their custodial sentence.

4. Frequently Asked Questions

4.1 Why not ensure serious or violent offenders spend all their sentence in custody?

The licence period is an important element of all custodial sentences, delivering a phased return to the community with supervision in place.

Keeping offenders in prison until the end of their custodial sentence would mean releasing them with no licence conditions, which we think would be worse for victim confidence and safety, and offender rehabilitation.

4.2 Why are you changing the release point for SDS and SOPC sentences?

Ending automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes is a manifesto commitment, and important for improving public safety and public confidence in the justice system.

These changes will ensure that those who have committed serious offences will no longer be eligible for automatic release at the halfway point of their sentence. Instead they must serve two-thirds.

4.3 Does the new power to prevent automatic early release mean you will have the power to detain offenders beyond the sentence given by the court?

No, this power only relates to whether the offender is suitable for early release. There will be no power to change the overall length of the sentence handed down by the court.

4.4 Who will refer an offender deemed dangerous to the Parole Board?

The Secretary of State for Justice will be able to refer an offender serving an SDS where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender poses a significant risk of harm to the public.

4.5 What impact will changing the release point for SDS and SOPC have on sentencing/sentence lengths?

It will not impact on the way in which sentences are handed down by the Courts nor affect judicial discretion.

These changes will simply increase the proportion of the sentence spent in prison by serious offenders by moving the earliest release point from halfway to two thirds, ensuring that the time spent in prison better reflects the seriousness of the offences.


What percentage of prisoners serve their full sentence? ›

convictions serve 75%; 1 prior violent con- viction, 56.25%. to serve 85% of the sentence. sentence: offenders serve 100% of the prison term and a sentence of extended supervision at 25% of the prison sentence.

What are the current policy proposals around sentencing for offenders? ›

Introduce tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes. Improve the efficiency of the court and tribunal system by modernising existing court processes.

How much time do you serve on a 9 year sentence UK 2022? ›

If you are sentenced to a 9 year sentence then the maximum time you would serve in prison would be 54 months. You would not be eligible for HDC (Tag) if your sentence is over 4 years. If you are sentenced to a 10 year sentence then the maximum time you would serve in prison would be 60 months.

Do first time offenders go to jail UK? ›

For simple first-time offences for drug possession, it is unlikely that you will face jail time. If you do not have a criminal record, this will likely act as a mitigating factor which could reduce the punishment you receive to an out of court disposal, community resolution or conditional caution.

What are the four types of release? ›

Types of Release
  • Parole. "Parole" means the release of a prisoner to the community by the Board of Parole (BOP) prior to the expiration of the offender's sentence. ...
  • Probation. ...
  • Determinate Release. ...
  • Community Corrections.

What is the 2 point reduction for federal inmates 2023? ›

Second, the proposed amendment creates a new Chapter Four guideline, which provides a decrease of two (2) levels from the offense level for offenders who did not receive any criminal history points under Chapter Four and whose instant offense did not involve certain proscribed criteria.

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