It is clear from the contact that we have from clients that there is a lack of understanding of the recall process and inmates are often left in the dark about the procedure and what will happen to them.
Most inmates will be aware that if they are released on licence they will be at risk of being recalled to custody, if it is alleged that they have breached their licence conditions. Often this decision will have a greater impact on an inmate than the original decision to send them to custody in the first place, primarily as a result of the uncertainty as to when a decision will be made for them to be re-released on licence once again.
What type of recall am I subject to?
The way in which someone is recalled is dependent upon the nature of the sentence that they are serving. If an inmate is serving a determinate sentence of 12 months or more then they can be subject to fixed term recall or standard recall.
Inmates who are subject to an indeterminate or extended sentence are subject to a standard recall and will only be re-released if the Parole Board make such a direction.
Inmates who have been released on Home Detention Curfew will not have their recall considered by the Parole Board if the recall was as a result of breach of a tagging condition. Such cases will be considered by the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) on behalf of the Secretary of State. Inmates are however entitled to make representations in relation to the reasons for recall. Inmates are advised to contact a prison law specialist who can provide assistance and prepare representations on an inmate’s behalf. If the recall is upheld then the inmate will be released automatically at the halfway stage of their sentence. They will only then be subject to licence conditions if the sentence imposed was longer than 12 months.
Who makes the decision to recall me?
The initial decision to recall will be made by the Offender Manager – Probation Service. They will prepare a report for recall, an Annex E, setting out the details and reasons for recall to custody. This report is submitted to PPCS, who will then determine whether an offender should be recalled within 24 hours of receipt of the report. Once the PPCS have made the decision to recall, an offender will be arrested and taken to their local remand prison.
Annex E will make up part of the recall dossier that should be disclosed to the inmate upon their return to custody. It is important that an inmate makes sure they request sight of their recall paperwork as soon as they have been returned to custody so that they can ascertain both the reasons for their recall and whether they have been recalled subject to a standard or fixed term recall.
Inmates should be issued with a representation pack shortly after their return to custody and should think about contacting a prison law specialist as soon as possible so that they can ensure that they are advised as to the recall process and be assisted in the preparation of any written representations deemed necessary.
How long will I be in custody for?
If an inmate has been recalled and is subject to a fixed term recall they will be released after the fixed term period, which is 28 days.
If an inmate is not recalled to custody for a fixed term period then they will be subject to a standard or emergency recall. This means that once recalled the decision as to whether and when they should be re-released will not be made until their case has been referred to the Parole Board by the PPCS.
I am subject to a standard recall… what should I expect?
As with a fixed term recall, those subject to a standard or emergency recall should request a copy of their recall paperwork as soon as they have been returned to custody, and are advised to make contact with a prison law specialist.
There is a timeframe that should be adhered to by both the PPCS and the Probation Service, but invariably this timeframe is often delayed or not adhered to.
Who makes the decision to re-release me?
If the PPCS have decided to instigate a standard or emergency recall then the initial decision to re-release will rest with the Parole Board. The Parole Board will initially consider whether to re-release an inmate on the papers alone. In considering the papers the Board will be provided with a copy of the initial recall pack which will consist of the Annex E report for recall, a copy of the inmate’s previous convictions, a risk report, and details of the licence condition said to have been breached. This pack will not usually be sent by the PPCS for consideration by Parole Board until the Probation Service have prepared an Annex H report which sets out whether there is a recommendation for re-release.
The Annex H report for re-release must be sent by the Probation Service to the PPCS within 14 days of the inmate’s return to custody. Experience has shown that the Probation Service often drag their feet in preparing the Annex H report and this then causes delay in cases being referred to the Parole Board. It is also important to understand that the PPCS will not wait for an inmate’s written representations and therefore these should be completed as soon as possible.
What can I do if the Parole Board decide not to release me?
For determinate sentence prisoners the Parole Board initially considers the case on the papers but only has the power to do two things:-
1. Direct release; or 2. Make no recommendation for release.
If the Board refuses release the decision as to when the case will next be considered rests with the Secretary of State, who must refer the inmate’s case back to the Parole Board no later than 12 months after the initial decision not to re-release.
The Parole Board does have the power to recommend that a re-referral to them should be made and this will usually be indicated in their decision which can include a recommendation as to what further information a future panel of the Parole Board would be assisted by. Subject to this information being provided it is suggested that representations be made to the PPCS that an inmate’s case either be re-referred to the Parole Board for a fresh review or that the Secretary State be asked to consider re-releasing the inmate without the need for a fresh review.
Will my case go to an oral hearing?
If a decision is made by the Parole Board not to re-release a determinate sentence inmate from reading the papers then they will be provided with an opportunity to request that their matter proceed to an oral hearing before the Parole Board. The inmate only has 28 days following the initial decision not to re-release, to make such a request and certain criteria must be met in order for such a case to proceed to a hearing. Oral hearings are not an automatic right.
Oral hearings are however automatically given for those inmates who are indeterminate sentence prisoners subject to a life or IPP licence and therefore their re-release will be considered before a panel of the Parole Board.
What happens next?
For determinate sentence recalls it is important to remember that the Secretary of State now retains a power to re-release an inmate at any time. Therefore if there is new information that has come to light or a significant event that has taken place that could be used to either persuade the PPCS to refer a case to the Secretary of State to consider re-release prior to the annual 12 month review, then this should be done.
If the PPCS do not feel that the case should be referred to the Secretary of State for an immediate decision, then they may re-refer the case to the Parole Board for an earlier review based upon this new information.
Where indeterminate sentence prisoners are not re-released at the initial recall review, the PPCS will set the timetable for the next review. This cannot be more than two years from the initial decision. It is important to note indeterminate sentence prisoners, although subject to an automatic hearing, will only be entitled to ask the Parole Board to direct their re-release on licence. The initial recall review will not make any recommendation about an inmate’s suitability for open conditions, unless a recall referral specifically requests advice on this issue.
What is clear from this article is that the process of recall is far from straight forward and not always easy to understand. Recalls at any time of the year are stressful, but over the festive period can be particularly hard for inmates and their families. The process can be eased by inmates obtaining prompt specialist legal representation as soon as they can on their return to custody, so they can ensure that not only are they fully informed and appraised of the reasons for their recall, but that also that their case is properly considered in accordance with the timeframes provided. This may make all the difference as to whether they are home in time for Christmas.