§ Mr. John Ellis
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are currently serving life sentences in prison in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government policy towards life sentences in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Concannon
On 30th April there were 221 persons serving life sentences, 216 men and five women, and another 55, 52 men and three women, detained during the Secretary of State's pleasure under the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968, a total of 276.
Prisoners subject to life sentences or detention during pleasure are liable to be detained for the whole of their lives. There is provision for such prisoners to be released by the Secretary of State on licence, but this power can be exercised only after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge, if available.197W
The cases of all prisoners serving life sentence or detained during pleasure are reviewed from time to time in the light of all the relevant circumstances, including the nature of the crime and, in the cases of persons sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, any recommendation by the trial judge as to the minimum period which should be served before release or licence.
No prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence for a murder or any other offence associated with the current terrorist campaign has yet been released.