HL Deb 18 January 1972 vol 327 cc1-3

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will enumerate the offences for which Jack Leonard Prescott was serving a five and a half year sentence in Albany Prison; how long he remained in prison; on what grounds he was released on parole; whether he was subject to any supervision while living in a "commune" at Grosvenor Avenue, Islington; whether the ground for his arrest was a charge of fraud; whether he joined the Angry Brigade while on parole; and whether they will exercise greater caution in future before releasing dangerous convicts on parole.]


My Lords. I shall reply as briefly as pos- sible, but there are seven separate questions here. The offences for which Prescott was convicted in February, 1968, were: unauthorised possession of a dangerous drug; breaking and entering and stealing; unauthorised possession of a firearm and ammunition, and using a firearm with intent to prevent lawful detention. He served two years, seven months, in prison before being released on licence following acceptance of a recommendation by the Parole Board. Prescott was subject to supervision by the probation and after-care service throughout the period he was at liberty and had reported to the supervising officer. He was understood to be living in private lodgings at known addresses, and the probation service had been in touch with the landlords. If, as subsequently stated, Prescott was living elsewhere, the supervising officer was deceived. His arrest on January 20, 1971, was the result of being stopped in the street and found in possession of a small quantity of cannabis and cheque books which were thought to have been stolen. It is not known when Prescott became associated with the Angry Brigade. Both my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the Parole Board, in submitting recommendations to him, attach the greatest importance to the protection of the public in considering the release of any prisoner on licence.


My Lords, does not this reply by the Government call in question the efficiency of the whole of the administration of the parole system? If a man serving a five and a half year sentence for the illegal possession of fire-arms and other offences is released on parole his supervision is insufficient if he has managed during that time to commit a number of other offences. He is then released on bail and subsequently arrested on a suspicion of an entirely new offence. It is only because of that arrest that it is found that he is associated with the Angry Brigade. Does this not indicate that dangerous criminals are released on parole and are not subjected to proper supervision?


My Lords, it is dangerous to generalise on the working of the parole scheme on the basis of a single case, serious though that case is. In the three and a half years since the parole system was introduced, following the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, about 8.000 people have been paroled. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the members of the Parole Board accept that this is a case which must be looked at very carefully in all its aspects so that we may see what lessons can be learned.


My Lords, is the Minister able to carry those figures a little further and tell us what percentage of persons released on parole since the system was instituted have been convicted of crimes of violence while on parole?


My Lords, less than 1 per cent. of those serving a term of imprisonment for an offence of violence have committed a further offence of violence during the period of their licence.

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