§ Lord Nathan
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What if any differences presently exist between the procedures relating to consideration of the grant and revocation of licences for release in respect of discretionary life sentence prisoners and prisoners subject to a mandatory life sentence; and
What if any differences presently exist as to the person or body responsible for making decisions as 66WA to the grant and revocation of licences for release in respect of discretionary life sentence prisoners and prisoners subject to a mandatory life sentence.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
The release of a discretionary life sentence prisoner who has served the relevant part of the sentence (as defined in Section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991) may be directed by the Parole Board if the board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined. The Home Secretary must give effect to any such direction.
The release of a mandatory life sentence prisoner is a matter for the Home Secretary. He may release such a prisoner only if recommended to do so by the Parole Board and after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge, if available.
Procedures for consideration by the Parole Board differ in that, when the Parole Board considers discretionary life sentence cases under Section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, the prisoner has the right to attend and participate in the hearing and to be represented. In mandatory cases, neither the prisoner nor his legal representative is present.
In both mandatory and discretionary cases the Home Secretary is empowered, by Section 39(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, to revoke the life licence and to recall the licensee to prison following a recommendation to that effect from the Parole Board.
Section 39(2) allows the Home Secretary to revoke a life licence without a recommendation by the Parole Board, if he considers it expedient in the public interest to do so. Should the Home Secretary revoke a life licence in such circumstances, he must then refer the case to the Parole Board, which has the power to direct immediate release (in discretionary cases) or to recommend immediate release (in mandatory cases). The Home Secretary is required to give effect to any such direction or recommendation.
Any person recalled to prison under Section 39(1) or 39(2) may make written representations. These must be referred to the Parole Board. A discretionary life sentence prisoner may attend the subsequent hearing and may be represented. In mandatory cases neither the prisoner nor his representative is present. If the Parole Board directs immediate release (in discretionary cases) or recommends immediate release (in mandatory cases), the Home Secretary must give effect to any such direction or recommendation.