Belfast Telegraph

Christmas festivities see 130 get out of jail

By Chris Kilpatrick

The Prison Service granted 130 inmates Christmas home leave, with seven of those released serving a life sentence.

The inmates completed risk assessments prior to release.

The prisoners were released on Christmas Eve for varying periods until January 2.

Of those released, 64 are serving their sentences in Magilligan while 47 are in Maghaberry.

Fourteen young offenders and five female prisoners were released from Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Prison.

Twenty-three of those to be freed are early release prisoners, meaning their sentence is due to end over the holiday period.

Each of the criminals had conditions imposed as part of their temporary release.

Currently, there are 1,694 prisoners serving time in Northern Ireland prisons.

Last year, 92 prisoners in Northern Ireland were granted home leave over the festive period.

The equivalent figure for 2012 was 72.

In September it was confirmed that, since 2009, a total of 5,521 prisoners were freed from Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank prisons on home leave, or to attend employment placements.

Of those prisoners, 4,281 were on home leave.

A further 701 were allowed out during the day to attend work placements, 17 to go to training classes, and 522 were granted compassionate bail.

Last year's figure of 1,205 prisoner participants was the largest in recent times.

To be eligible to apply for Christmas home leave, life sentence prisoners must be within three years of tariff or post tariff, and must be successfully undergoing periods of programmed release or participating in a home leave programme.

Life sentence prisoners without a tariff must have been continuously in custody for at least 10 years and must be undergoing periods of unaccompanied testing in the community and/or successfully participating in the home leave programme.

Remand prisoners are not eligible for Christmas home leave.

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