Tag Archives: Release

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?


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


we explain the general rules for the release from prison

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

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).


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

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.

Home Detention Curfew Scheme


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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)


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))

Release from custodial sentences (including licences)

Sentences under 12 months

There is a duty to release a prisoner who is serving a sentence of under 12 months at the half way point of the sentence, CJA 2003 s 243A.

The release is unconditional  – there are no licence conditions.

There is a HDC licence where the prisoner is released on a tag, prior to the half-way point. See the Home Detention Curfew Scheme fact sheet.

Sentences of 12 months or more

There is a duty to release a prisoner who is serving a sentence of 12 months or more at the half way point of the sentence, CJA 2003 s 244.

The release is on licence.

The licence expires at the expiry of the sentence, see CJA 2003 s 249(1).


The duty to release a prisoner serving a term of 12 months or more does not apply if the prisoner has been released on licence under section 246 (the 135 day rule – see the Home Detention Curfew Scheme fact sheet) and recalled under section 254

Release on licence

The following information is taken from Probation Instructions PI 2011/7

Aims a) protect the public, b) prevent re-offending and c) secure the successful re-integration of the offender into the community.

Conditions Licence conditions should be preventative as opposed to punitive. This does not mean that conditions cannot require an offender to do something (as opposed to not do something), in the same way as a ASBO or SOPO.


Test for imposing conditions

The test  Licence conditions must be proportionate, reasonable and necessary. This will be determined by the offender’s identified risk factors, which in turn will be based upon his previous offending.

Necessary means that the condition is necessary to enable the Offender Manager to manage the risks identified within the Risk Management Plan and no other less onerous condition will suffice. The condition must be needed to allow for effective management of the offender.

Proportionate means that any restriction or loss of liberty arising from the imposition of the condition is proportionate to the level of risk presented by the offender that no other less intrusive means of addressing the risk is available or appropriate. The condition cannot go further than is necessary to manage the risk.


Explaining the conditions Offender Managers must explain each condition of the licence and consequences of breach on the first occasion the offender reports following release from custody. The offender must be asked to sign the licence in order to show that they understand their conditions.

Standard conditions for determinate sentences

A determinate sentenced prisoner released on licence must be released on a licence containing the six standard licence conditions set out below.

i)          To keep in touch with your supervising officer in accordance with any instruction you may be given;

ii)         If required, to receive visits from your supervising officer at your home/place of residence (e.g. an Approved Premises);

iii)        Permanently to reside at an address approved by your supervising officer and notify him/her in advance of any proposed change to address or any proposed stay (even for one night) away from that approved address;

iv)        Undertake only such work (including voluntary work) approved by your supervising officer and notify him or her in advance of any proposed change;

v)         Not to travel outside the United Kingdom unless otherwise directed by your supervising officer (permission for which will be given in exceptional circumstances only) or for the purpose of complying with immigration/deportation;

vi)        To be well behaved, not to commit any offence and not to do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, which is to protect the public, prevent you from re-offending and help you to re-settle successfully into the community.

Additional conditions Licences may also include additional conditions, for example, requiring electronic monitoring, drug testing and such other conditions, provided (in the case of standard determinate sentence prisoners who were sentenced under the provisions of the 2003 Act) they fall within one of the licence requirements prescribed in Statutory Instrument No 648 of 2005 of the Criminal Justice (Sentencing) (Licence Conditions) Order 2005.

These requirements are:

a)        a requirement that he/she reside at a certain place;

b)        a requirement relating to his/her making or maintaining contact with a person;

c)        a restriction relating to his/her making or maintaining contact with a person;

d)       a restriction on his/her participation in, or undertaking of, an activity;

e)        a requirement that he/she participate in, or co-operate with, a programme or set of activities designed to further one or more of the purposes referred to in section 250(8) of the 2003 Act;

f)        a requirement that he/she comply with a curfew arrangement;

g)        a restriction on his/her freedom of movement (which is not a requirement referred to in sub-paragraph (f));

h)  a requirement relating to his/her supervision in the community by a responsible officer.

A ‘menu’ of additional conditions can be found at Annex A in PI 2011/7, which can be accessed here.

Dangerous offenders

Additional conditions Offender Managers must ensure that any additional licence condition in respect of indeterminate and extended sentence prisoners has a causal link to the kind of risk to the public that the sentence was imposed to address (i.e. intended specifically to manage and reduce the risk of further sexual or violent re-offending). It must also be possible to demonstrate that the condition is both necessary to manage the risk and proportionate to the level of risk.