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MLAs' fears over early release scheme

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 30/05/2015

Edwin Poots said that the early release scheme risked showing that the country was soft on crime
Edwin Poots said that the early release scheme risked showing that the country was soft on crime

Convicted burglars, car thieves and shoplifters could get out of jail early under new Government plans.

A new conditional early release scheme, due to start next month, may see criminals deemed to be at low risk of reoffending released after serving half their sentence.

Life sentence prisoners and those jailed for terrorism, sexual or hate-related offences will not qualify.

The Department of Justice said: "The conditional early release scheme is based on the premise that we will only facilitate the conditional early release of those offenders whose release will not damage public confidence in the criminal justice system and who are assessed as presenting a low likelihood of reoffending and whose early release will aid their rehabilitation and resettlement back into the community."

Victims will also be informed, and those prisoners released early will be subject to a licence curfew and recall if they breach their licence conditions.

DUP MLA Edwin Poots, who sits on the justice scrutiny committee at Stormont, said politicians had some reservations about the proposals.

He said: "I know that the prisons are bulging at the seams, but that is no reason to reduce the deterrent against crime.

"We need to be a country that is very determined that crime does not pay. If you are seen to be soft on crime then that encourages more crime."

The justice committee is to write to the Department of Justice outlining members' concerns.

It is estimated that around 50 prisoners would be eligible for the early release scheme each year.

Belfast Telegraph

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