Ruling on curfews may free thousands from jail

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS OF prisoners may have to be released early from jail after a High Court judge ruled that the new system of home detention curfew was being applied incorrectly.

The curfew system introduced in January involves the electronic tagging of those granted early release under curfew but in a test case at the High Court yesterday Mr Justice Hidden declared the rules had been unfairly and wrongly applied to a prisoner in Nottingham. When the Prison Service refused early release to Richard Allen, who is serving a two-year sentence for indecently assaulting a woman, they applied the Home Office rules incorrectly, said the judge.

Allen was due for early release from Whatton prison, near Nottingham, on November 29 this year but his lawyers argued that the new curfew scheme could have freed him 60 days earlier. The Prison Service refused to do so and did not let Allen have access to material that would help him state his case. That, according to the judge, was incorrect.

Allen will now be reassessed to see if he can be released on curfew but civil rights lawyers said the ruling could lead to the early release of thousands of other prisoners.

Andrew Kelly, solicitor for Allen, said after the hearing in London: "The statistics are that only 31 per cent of prisoners eligible for home detention curfew are released.

"The reason for that is that the focus of the Prison Service has been on what was the general likelihood at any time in the future of a prisoner committing a further offence - rather than the risk during the 60-day tagging period.

"The vast majority of prisoners are serving sentences of four years or less and are eligible for home detention curfew.

"But the system has been operated unfairly, as the court has found today. That means that many thousands of prisoners denied release may now be entitled to early release with tagging."