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Release from prison

This information applies to Scotland only

Determinate sentence or fixed term prisoners

The rules on release for determinate sentence prisoners changed on 1 October 1993. For information relating to sentences passed before that date, you should contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

For sentences passed on or after 1 October 1993, prisoners serving a sentence of less than four years are released automatically and unconditionally after serving half their sentence in custody. There are different conditions for sex offenders serving short sentences.

Prisoners serving a sentence of less than four years may be released on home detention curfew up to four months early. Prisoners released on home detention curfew will need to meet certain conditions, which will be monitored by an electronic tag. Prisoners on home detention curfew will continue to serve their sentence during the home detention curfew and could be recalled to prison if they don't meet the conditions. A prisoner can be released on home detention curfew to an address in England, Wales or Scotland.

Prisoners serving a sentence of four years or more are considered by the parole board for parole after serving half their sentence. If the parole board grants parole, the prisoner will be released on licence. If parole is not granted at this point, they are automatically released on licence after serving two thirds of their sentence. In some cases there may be a further parole hearing. Prisoners remains on licence and can be recalled to custody at any point until the expiry of their sentence.

Parole

Prisoners can be released on parole if the Parole Board decides that they will not present an unacceptable risk if released. They have the right to choose not be considered for parole.

When prisoners are released on parole, the release will be on licence with certain conditions attached to it. If prisoners break any of the conditions they can have parole denied and be returned to prison.

The parole eligibility date is the earliest date that a prisoner could be released on parole. If prisoners have a sentence of more than four years they will be told of their parole eligibility date.

If prisoners are refused parole they can be considered for parole again. They may also be given a date on which they will be released on parole.

If you want more information on arrangements for parole and release of prisoners, you should contact a specialist adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

For details of useful organisations see Information for prisoners and their families.

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Short term prisoners serving sentences for sex offences

Prisoners serving a short term sentence of less than four years but more than six months who have been convicted of a sex offence that requires registration under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will be released on licence after serving half of their sentence. They will then remain on licence and could be recalled to custody at any point until the expiry of their sentence.

Short term prisoners serving sentences for sex offences are not eligible to be released on home detention curfew.

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Life prisoners

For life prisoners the rules are slightly different depending on whether the prisoner was sentenced before 8 October 2001 or on or after 8 October 2001.

Sentences passed on or after 8 October 2001

Prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment or detention without limit of time have a punishment part to their sentence set in open court by a sentencing judge. The decision on the punishment part can be appealed. Once the punishment part of the sentence has been served the Parole Board sitting as a tribunal will decide if the prisoner should be released on life licence. See below for information on Release on life licence.

Sentences passed before 8 October 2001

If a sentence was passed before 8 October 2001, existing adult mandatory life prisoners will be given a punishment part to their sentence at a hearing before a High Court judge. The punishment part will be set in open court. Once the punishment part of the sentence has been served the Parole Board sitting as a tribunal will decide if the prisoner should be released on life licence. See below for information on Release on life licence.

Release on life licence

Once the punishment part of the sentence has been served life prisoners can have the grounds of their continued imprisonment or detention reviewed by the Parole Board.

The prisoner has the right to be present at the Parole Board hearing and to be represented.

If the decision of the Parole Board is that the prisoner should not be released on life licence the prisoner has the right to be seen again no more than two years after the decision, but could be seen earlier. There is no right to appeal against the decision of the Parole Board.

There are conditions to the licence. If prisoners break these conditions they can be returned to prison immediately.

If you want more information on release of prisoners, you should contact a specialist adviser.

For details of useful organisations, see Information for prisoners and their families.

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Citizens Advice

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