Tag Archives: HDC

Huhne and Pryce released after serving 2 months of 8-month sentences – Why?

HuneChris Huhne and Vicky Pryce
were today, 13 May 2013, released from prison after serving just
25% of their 8-month sentences.

The background facts leading up to
the sentencing hearing can be seen here.
Pryce was convicted of, and Huhne pleaded guilty to, perverting the
course of justice.

Both were sentenced to 8 months
imprisonment. We stated that both would be eligible for release at
the half way point of their sentences, but would also be eligible
for release on a tag after 2 months. Here
is how we dealt with the sentences.

They were released after serving
just 25% of their sentences. Why?

Release

Well when a court expresses a
custodial sentence in terms of months and/or years, that represents
the total sentence, not just the time spent in custody. So, where a
judge says ‘Mr Smith the sentence I impose upon you is one of 3
years’ imprisonment.’ That will often be followed by an explanation
of roughly how long will be served in custody. If the sentence is 3
years, Mr Smith will be eligible for release at the halfway point,
with the balance of the sentence being served on licence.

The licence essentially
comprises of restrictions placed upon the offender with a
requirement to meet a probation officer to discuss the offender’s
progress. Any offences committed on licence would result in the
offender being returned to prison to serve all or part of the
balance of the sentence and any sentence imposed for the new
offences.

HDC /
Tagging

Here
we explain the general rules for the release from prison
sentences.

So why
were Huhne and Pryce release after ¼ not ½ of their sentences? Well
prisoners serving certain sentences are eligible to be released on
a tag, also known as HDC or Home Detention Curfew. This involves
being released to a specified address, on the condition that a
curfew (and other conditions) are adhered to. Release on HDC still
forms the punitive part of the sentence, but with the benefit of a)
reducing the prison population (and so reducing costs), b) allowing
the offender to begin their reintroduction into society and c)
retaining a degree of punishment and supervision over the
offender.

Here
we explain the general rules for release on Home Detention Curfew
(also known as ‘tagging’).

Contrary to popular belief (and what
was said on Radio 4 this morning), there is no release on or for
good behaviour. Good behaviour in prison is rewarded with
privileges, unacceptable behaviour is punished. But the sentence of
the court remains. 8 months is 8 months (subject to release
provisions as determined by Parliament).

Good
behaviour

Otherwise, there could be
inconsistencies between different prisons – staying out of trouble
in Preston might (in the Governor’s view) warrant a 7 day early
release for good behaviour, but might result in only a 1 day early
release in Wandsworth. Clearly that would be
unfair.

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Home Detention Curfew Scheme


Overview

  • The Home Detention Curfew scheme came into force on 28 January 1999.
  • For most eligible prisoners HDC will be a normal part of their progression through their sentence. They will normally be released on HDC unless there are clear grounds to indicate that they are unlikely successfully to complete the period on curfew.
  • The prisoner is released and is required to wear a ‘tag’ and comply with a curfew.
  • The discretion to authorise the release of a prisoner under this section lies with the Secretary of State, and will be exercised on his behalf by a Governor of the prison where the prisoner is detained. In contractually-managed prisons, the Controller will exercise this discretion.
  • Early release on HDC is not an entitlement.

Legislation Criminal Justice Act 2003 s 246, 250 and 253

Who is eligible?

Length of sentence: The requisite custodial period of the sentence must be at least 6 weeks long (see CJA 2003 s 246(2). The requisite custodial period of the sentence is one half (see CJA 2003 s 243A(3) and 244(3)). Therefore, the length of the sentence must be 12 weeks or more.

Minimum period to be served: All prisoners must serve a) at least 28 days AND b) one half of the requisite custodial period of their sentence (see CJA 2003 s 246(2)).

Note, this does not mean 28 days plus one half of the requisite period, it means that both must be satisfied. Eg. For a 12 week sentence, the requisite custodial period is 6 weeks. Half of 6 weeks is three weeks, but that is less than 28 days. So the prisoner would need to serve 28 days (which is also more than half of the requisite custodial period).

Statutory exclusions

See Criminal Justice Act 2003 s 246(4) for the list of those who are not eligible.

See PSI 43/2012 Annex B for a list of those who are ‘deemed unsuitable’.

The power

What does the power enable the Sec of State to do? The Sec of State can release a prisoner at any time during the period of 135 days ending on the day on which the prisoner will have served the requisite custodial period of his or her sentence.

Calculating the eligibility date

Method of calculation

1)    Divide sentence by 2 – that is the requisite custodial period

2)    Subtract 135 days

3)    Is that less than one half of the requisite period OR 28 days? If yes, the minimum period to be served is one half of the requisite period. If no, the minimum period is half of the requisite period or 28 days, whichever is the greater.

 Licence

  • All prisoners released on Home Detention Curfew must be released on licence. See CJA 2003 s 250(4).
  • PSI 40/2012 includes licence templates for the three types of licences:
    • All purpose HDC licence for sentences of 12 months +
    • HDC licence for sentences of less than 12 months
    • Licences for sentences of less than 12 months for young persons

Prisoners must not be released on Home Detention Curfew unless they sign the licence to agree that they consent to the conditions imposed.

Curfew

  • A licence must include a curfew (CJA 2003 s 250(5))
  • A curfew includes electronic monitoring (the ‘tag’)
  • Curfews remain in force until the offender falls to be released unconditionally (if the sentence is under 12 months) or on licence (if the sentence is of 12 months or more)

Statistics

In the two year period April 2011 to April 2013 the SPPU Recall Appeals team received 190 Appeals against recall for breach of HDC conditions. Of these, 27 cases were for PID tamper (which generally take longer to determine). The overall average length of time to determine each case was 15 calendar days. This can be broken down to an average of 14 calendar days for non-PID tamper cases and 24 calendar days for PID tamper cases. Overall, 35 cases (18%) were allowed and the average time in an allowed case was 13 calendar days. (From R (Foster) v Sec of State for Justice [2013] EWHC 1951 (Admin))