Prisoners released early reoffend

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The Independent Online

More than 16,000 crimes were committed in a year by offenders released early from jail, the Government has disclosed.

The scale of reoffending by former prisoners supposed to be under supervision by the probation service is a fresh embarrassment for the Ministry of Justice, which admitted that 7,951 offenders let out on licence were cautioned or convicted for a total of 16,415 crimes between April 2006 and March 2007.

Nick Herbert, shadow Justice Secretary, said: "Reconviction rates have soared under this government. We must break the cycle of reoffending by dealing with prison overcrowding and rehabilitating offenders properly."

It emerged this week that 83 high-risk offenders had committed offences such as murder, manslaughter or rape while under supervision last year, a rise of a third on the previous 12 months. Twelve of those crimes were carried out by criminals among the 1,249 assessed as the "critical few" with the highest risk of harming the public, and supposedly under the most rigorous supervision.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said yesterday: "Protecting the public is a top priority. Offenders released on licence will be recalled if they breach their licence conditions. We are making concerted efforts ... to bring down overall the reoffending rates."

* Prison overcrowding eased marginally yesterday when the jail population fell to 81,453, a drop of 80 since last week. Nearly 300 offenders are still being held in police cells.