HL Deb 19 February 2003 vol 644 cc173-4WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many life-sentence prisoners have been imprisoned for longer than their judicial tariff; and what is the total of extra years served. [HL1431]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin)

The tariff is the minimum period a life sentence prisoner must serve before being considered for release, which then can take place only when the independent Parole Board is satisfied the prisoner is no longer a risk to the public. Following the House of Lords decision in the case ofAnderson on 25 November 2002, judges, rather than the Secretary of State, will set tariffs for adult mandatory life sentence prisoners. New legislation is being introduced in this Session of Parliament to establish a clear set of principles which judges will be expected to follow in setting tariffs in the future.

The latest statistical information available (September 2002) indicates that there were 3,270 mandatory lifers in England and Wales whose tariff had been set. Of those, 2,470 had tariffs which had not yet expired. The tariffs of the remaining 800 mandatory lifers had expired and those prisoners continued to be detained on grounds of risk. An analysis of 1.257 tariffs in new cases between 1 April 1997 and 30 June 2002 indicated that 87 per cent of those were set in line with the judicial recommendation. Of the remainder, the Secretary of State set a tariff higher than the judicial recommendations in 6 per cent of the cases and a lower tariff in 7 per cent of the cases.

Corresponding information on the tariffs set by the trial judge in non-mandatory life sentence cases and on the total years served beyond tariff is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.