87 ‘Lifers’ Released Early Returned To Jail After Committing More Crimes
The Parole Board came under fire after it emerged 87 serious criminals released early from life sentences were sent back to jail last year because they committed more crimes. The shocking figure – which covers former prisoners who are supposed to be under the strictest supervision from officers – includes one case of murder.
Convicted rapist Anthony Rice butchered mother-of-one Naomi Bryant, supposedly while being closely monitored, after exploiting human rights laws to get out of jail early.
A new report also reveals record numbers of offenders being freed early from prison on parole, while the number of life sentence prisoners let out early on licence has more than doubled in five years, along with a five-fold rise in the number then having to be returned to jail.
Data from the Parole Board’s annual report raises fresh concerns over public protection and the way the most dangerous criminals are assessed for early release – particularly given the massive pressure to lower the jail population due to the current overcrowding crisis.
The Board’s work has been under unprecedented scrutiny in recent months following the horrifying death of Naomi Bryant, as well as the killing of City banker John Monckton, stabbed to death at his Chelsea home by Damien Hanson who was on early release at the time from a 12-year sentence for attempted murder.
The report shows that 140 life sentence offenders were recalled to prison last year – up from just 26 five years ago.
Of those 140 a total of 87 were accused of further offences. The Board would not say how serious their crimes were, but the figure represents almost one in 16 of the 1,495 lifers being monitored in the community.
The number of lifers being freed early on licence has soared from 129 five years ago to 307 last year – a rise of 137 per cent.
For less serious offenders the report shows record numbers are being released early on parole.
Five years ago the average number on parole at any one time was 3,000, but by last year that had risen 56 per cent to 4,683.
Over the same period the numbers being recalled to jail more than trebled from 329 per year to 993.
Last year the Parole Board considered 7,528 requests for parole and granted 3,718, or just under half. When Labour came to power there were fewer than 5,000 parole requests and barely one third were granted.
The proportion of parole prisoners being recalled each year has soared from 8.2 per cent in 1997 to 21.2 per cent last year.
Norman Brennan of the Victims of Crime Trust said the report highlighted the Government’s failure to protect ordinary people effectively.
He said: ‘Considering that lifers, who are meant to be put away for a long time, are being released at the earliest opportunity it is clear that the Government’s obsession with keeping people out of prison is putting the public at greater risk.
‘Somebody can be sentenced to life but be released in three or four years, and that seriously undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.’
The Parole Board insisted its members were being ‘more stringent’ in the wake of recent high-profile murder cases.
In the six months to September – after the report was written – just under 12 per cent of lifers had their requests for early release granted, down from more than 21 per cent in the year to March.
A spokesman said that indicated ‘a more cautious approach’ with officials now refusing to take decisions based on incomplete information.
The board’s workload has soared in recent years as the jail population has grown, particularly as all prisoners recalled to custody are now entitled to a special hearing to argue their case.
Parole Board chairman Sir Duncan Nichol said the organisation was facing ‘the searchlight of public, media and political attention’ as never before, and the murders of Naomi Bryant and John Monckton had ‘rightly caused the Board much anguish and soul searching’, but he insisted improvements were in place.
He said his members were ‘well aware’ that public safety was more important than an offender’s human rights.