Tag Archives: prison

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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Which Prison does someone go to?

This is closely related to what Prison Category the person is allocated.

After someone is sentenced (whether they were on remand or on bail) they will normally go to their ‘local’ prison. If the sentence is a short one (typically under six months) then it is likely that they will stay at that prison for the whole of the sentence.

For longer sentences, there are various factors set out in the Prison Service Orders in deciding which prison someone will got to. There is no legal requirement for a prisoner to be allocated to any particular prison, or a prison within a certain distance from their home. However, the authorities will try to put someone who is serving a longer sentence close to their family if possible. Family ties however will not generally impact on prison categorisation.

Prisoners can be (and often are) moved around during their sentence for similar reasons as their initial allocation. A prisoner can request a transfer for family or other reasons (or because they are having difficulties, such as being bullied, at the prison that they are in) and this will be considered by the Governor of the prison that they are in. There is a general lack of resources in the prison service, so even if the Governor is amenable, it may not be possible. If a request is refused, then the remedy would be a complaint to the Prisons Ombudsman or a Judicial Review. Given the wide discretion that the prison service have, it is extremely difficult to win a Judicial Review however.

A complete list of prisons in the UK can be found here. Further guidance on allocation and moving prisoners can be found here.

If you are looking to find a prisoner, then you can contact the Prisoner Location Service. For obvious reasons, they will need to speak to a prisoner before passing on to.

Official information on what happens when someone is processed (when they first arrive in prison) and prison life in general can be found from the Prison Reform Trust. An unofficial guide (one person’s experience) can be found here.