Tag Archives: Parole

Crime and Punishment, or Law and Order : Trondheim

A toddler is taken by two boys and brutally killed by them. It’s a senseless, and in some ways sadistic, killing. But the victim isn’t Jamie Bulger, it’s a 5 year old Norwegian girl – Slije Redergard. The killers have never been named in the media, but they were 6 year old boys.

The two killers were four years younger than Jon Venables and Robert Thompson and even in England they would have been too young to be prosecuted. But the four year age gap is not the only difference – the way that the two communities dealt with the child killers were poles apart.

Mr Venables and Mr Thompson were, at the time of the killings, ten year old boys. There was an immediate outpouring of hate when they attended court and many people expressed outrage at the fact that, when they were found guilty, they ‘only’ received a life sentence with a minimum term of 8 years.

As is well known, Mr Venables re-offended after his release and was imprisoned for child pornography offences. With the news that Jon Venables release was directed by the Parole Board, the reaction has not been restrained. Jamie’s mother, Denise Fergus, has expressed her anger at the release, as well as her view that the Parole Board got it wrong. I’m not criticising her, her reaction is understandable – she has, after all, lost her son.

But she is certainly not alone in her views. A quick search on twitter (#justiceforjames) shows that there is a great deal of anger. One, chosen at random, is :


Is our reaction right? It is useful to look at just how different the reaction in Norway was. Mr Thompson and Mr Venables were tried as adults in the Crown Court, their mugshots released to the public. In Norway on the other hand”Silje’s killers were back at [a different local school] within a week. The local community [who knew their identities] were encouraged to air their views and brought together to grieve openly … there were no reprisals against either of the boys or their families. They were able to carry on living on the local housing estate.”

In Trondheim there were no calls for punishment, let alone the outpouring we saw in the UK. This seemed to be across the board. Silje’s mother, for example, agreed that they should not be punished sayingI feel sympathy for them … They need compassion. They must be treated as children and be shown kindness and concern rather than vengeance.”

Of course, the boys in Norway were six, rather than ten in England. It doesn’t appear that that would have made a difference – the age of criminal responsibility is 15 (rather than 10 in England – the lowest in Europe). A journalist who covered the case saidThey were six-years-old, but even if they were 11, it would not have been an issue.” The police officer in charge of the case, when (it seems) he was asked about the Bulger case, said “I really don’t like to hear that you can put children, ten years old, into custody“.

Have we got it right? Or could we learn from our cousins across the North Sea? I can’t pretend that I’ve got all the answers, but sometimes I think we ought to have a proper conversation as to whether our approach to penal policy is right. There is a case against hate, a case for compassion in dealing with criminal acts committed by children.

Making policy based around individual cases is always dangerous, especially when dealing with ‘outliers’, cases such as these that are extreme. Of course the Slije Redergard killing is different to the Jamie Bulger one, and England is different to Norway. Having said all of that, let’s not forget that even allowing for the differences in population (and urban populations), Norway has lower crime, lower costs of incarceration (and the criminal justice system in general) and a lower recidivism rate. Maybe we could learn from them?


Man jailed for Baby P death returns to prison having breached his parole

Jason Owen

In 2009 Jason Owen was imprisoned for causing or allowing the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, Baby P.

Owen was a lodger at the home of his brother, Steven Barker, when Peter died in August 2007 having suffered more than 50 injuries.  Peter was on the “at risk” register of Haringey Council and received 60 visits from social workers, health professionals and police officers during the final eight months of his life.  Despite this, his death was not prevented.

Owen was one of three to be charged with the offence.  He pleaded not guilty but was found guilty following a trial at the Old Bailey.  He was originally sentenced to Imprisonment for Public Protection with a minimum term of 3 years.  This sentence meant he would serve a minimum three years and thereafter would be eligible for release only if the parole board felt he was no longer a risk to the public.  Owen successfully appealed this sentence, and it was reduced to a term of six years imprisonment, meaning he would serve three and then serve the rest of his sentence on parole in the community.

Owen was released on parole in August 2011.  It is understood that he was returned to prison in December 2012.  He may now have to serve the rest of his sentence in custody.

The Ministry of Justice has said: “Offenders released on licence are subject to a strict set of conditions and controls.  If they fail to comply with their licence conditions, they are liable to be returned to custody.”

A parole board review has deemed he should not be released until reassessed in December. 

More on the case can be found here.


Photo courtesy of BBC News

When will a prisoner be released?

A number of things can affect the length of time someone will spend in prison. This includes the date the offence was committed, the length of the sentence, whether a Home Detention Curfew (HDC) is granted and whether any extra days are added as the consequence of positive adjudications. However, for the purposes of calculating a prison sentence initially, only the first two points are taken into consideration.

Table 1: Offence committed after 4 April 2005

Length of sentence Key date Type of release Licence period etc.
Under   12 months Half-way   point Automatic   Unconditional Release No licence. (See LASPOA 2012 s 111 and CJA 2003 s 243A)
12   months + Half-way   point Automatic Conditional Release ‘On   licence’ until expiry of sentence (See CJA 2003 s 244)
IPP/DPP/EPP Tariff   expiry date as set by the court Eligible   for release. See   the IPP explanation sheet.

Table 2: Offence committed prior to 4 April 2005

Length of sentence Key date Type of release Licence period etc.
12   months – 4 years Half-way   point Automatic   Conditional Release ‘On   licence’ until ¾ of sentence complete.From   ¾ to the expiry of the sentence, they are ‘at risk’.
4   years + Half-way   point(Parole   Eligibility Date) Discretionary   release ‘On   licence’ until ¾ of sentence complete.

On licence This means that the person will be subject to regular meetings with an officer from the Probation Service. There may also be certain other conditions attached to the licence which can include living at a specified address or getting help with addressing their offending behaviour. If a person released on licence breaches any of their conditions then they can be returned to custody at the discretion of the Home Office.

See also the Release on Licence fact sheet.