§ Mr. William Ross
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what have been the(a) maximum, (b) minimum and (c) average periods of time taken to process applications for the early release of a prisoner under the early release provisions; and what period of time is taken by the appointed members of the commission on each application; 
(2) how many applications for early release have been received from persons convicted of terrorist-type crimes; and of these how many have been received from each terrorist or paramilitary group which has members in prison; 
(3) how many applications for early release from prison under the Good Friday Agreement have been refused. 
§ Mr. Ingram
Statutory responsibility for these matters lies with the Sentence Review Commissioners. I have asked the joint Chairmen, Sir John Blelloch and Mr. Brian Currin, to arrange for a reply to be given.617W
Letter from Brian Currin to Mr. William Ross, dated 17 November 1998:You recently asked three questions of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for information concerning applications made under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998. In her answer the Secretary of State advised that, as statutory responsibility for this matter lay with the Sentence Review Commissioners, I would respond.I can advise that, up until 12 November, the maximum, minimum and average times taken to process an application from its initial receipt to the Substantive Determination stage is as follows:Maximum time: 78 daysMinimum time: 31 daysAverage time: 64 daysThe range of time taken to process applications is a reflection both of the differing complexity of cases and the fact that, following receipt of 450 applications in August, the Commissioners decided to prioritise cases based on the prospective date of release for each prisoner.You asked for information on what period of time is taken by the appointed members of the Commission on each application. Unfortunately information is not recorded in a format which would enable us to provide an answer to your question. The Commissioners are involved in a number of distinct areas in the processing of each application; for instance, each application is allocated to a Single Commissioner who is responsible for ancillary decisions and ensuring that all relevant information is available for the application to be forwarded to a panel of Commissioners for consideration. A panel consists of three Commissioners and is responsible for considering the application and response papers and giving a "Preliminary Indication" of their decision. If there is no challenge to the Preliminary Indication then the Commissioners will confirm it in the form of a Substantive Determination. In the event of a challenge by either the applicant or respondent, the Commissioners set aside the Preliminary Indication and convene a hearing prior to making a Substantive Determination.We have received 461 applications from prisoners who have been convicted of scheduled offences. Of these, 203 are perceived to be affiliated to PIRA, 82 to UDA, 61 to UVF, 7 to LVF, 22 to INLA and 86 applications from prisoners who have no clear affiliation to any of the terrorist organisations listed above.In response to your question as to how many applications have been refused, I can advise that, up until 12 November, there has been no Substantive Determination advising that the applicant had been unsuccessful. There have, however, been 61 applications returned because the applicants did not meet the eligibility criteria as laid down in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.A copy of this letter will be placed in the library of the House of Commons.