During a month where much of the country’s focus was on the pandemic and a national lockdown, a new statute was passed which moved the automatic release point from half-way to two-thirds for certain prisoners.

Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, offenders sentenced to standard fixed term sentences previously should have been automatically released halfway through their sentence (except in cases where defendants were considered dangerous offenders).

However, as of 1st April 2020, the Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2020 changed this. Under the new legislation, offenders sentenced to a prison sentence of seven years or more for certain offences will instead serve two thirds of their sentence in prison, instead of half in and half out “on licence”.

Which offences does this apply to?

The changes apply to the offences found in Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 15 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. This means those convicted of the following offences, who are sentenced to a term of imprisonment of seven years or more, will be affected:

  • Rape
  • manslaughter
  • kidnapping
  • threats to kill
  • ABH
  • Affray
  • aggravated burglary
  • GBH

For a full list of the relevant offences, please click here.

What are the objectives of the Order?

The Order sets out to ensure that dangerous and serious offenders spend enough time in custody to reflect the severity of their crimes and the risks they pose to the public.

Supporters of the legislation believe that offenders being retained in prison for longer will provide comfort to victims and will also provide greater public confidence in sentencing and the administration of justice. However, many who work within criminal justice have criticised the move as an anti-rehabilitation and excessively punitive measure, which carries the risk of disillusioning defendants rather than serving to disincentive further offending.

Exceptions to the Order?

The provisions only apply to sentences imposed on or after 1st April 2020 and do not apply to any offenders under 18 years of age at the time of their sentence. The extended prison times must only apply to offences listed in Schedule 15 Criminal Justice Act 2003 and does not apply when the sentence is less than seven years.

The new Order will result in noticeable differences in the length of time an offender serves in custody. The new laws can also be confusing given the range in sentencing powers available to the Courts. If you or a family member face a criminal charge, please contact a member of the Crime and Regulatory team here in order to receive free initial telephone call.