§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons sentenced to life imprisonment were released from prison in each of the most recent five years for which figures are available; and what was the average sentence served by all those released over that five year period.
§ Mr. John Patten
[holding answer 15 February 1988]: The readily available information is as follows.
The average times served under sentence in prison department establishments in England and Wales by those first released on licence from life sentences in 1982, 1983 and 1984 was about ten and a half years; for those in 1985 was about ten and a quarter years and for those in 1986 was about 11 years. There are wide variations in the periods served in custody from which this average is 497W calculated. Reasons for this may include the range of offences for which life sentences are passed and any time which may have been served in other custodial care before entering a prison department establishment which is not included in the estimate. The average figure is lower because it excludes the long periods being served by some of those given life sentences following the abolition of capital punishment in 1965, who have not yet been released. The Home Secretary has made clear that his policy, other than in exceptional circumstances, is that those found guilty of certain heinous categories of murder will serve a minimum of 20 years in custody; those who are judged to remain a danger to the public will not be released. This average excludes persons who have died in custody or been discharged for other reasons.
The corresponding numbers first released on licence from life sentences in these five years were:
Year Number 1982 101 1983 102 1984 66 1985 61 1986 43
Further details of the lengths of the periods served before release are given in "Prison Statistics, England and Wales", table 1(f) of the latest issue, for 1986 Cm. 210, a copy of which is in the Library.