Licence to Thrill

27/11/2012

Emma Davies and Michaela Henderson-Thynne of Hine Solicitors explain what Licence Conditions are and the potential impact they may have on prisoners

Understanding the importance of Licence Conditions.

Prisoners who have been sentenced to a custodial sentence often think being in prison is the difficult and challenging part of their punishment. However, many prisoners find that it is when they are released that they start encountering problems. Current legislation and sentencing regime means that the vast majority of prisoners released from custody will be subject to a licence period and conditions upon release.

It is important to understand that when prisoners are released on licence they are effectively still serving their sentence, but in the community. The aim of any licence is twofold. The first aim is to instil rules so that a prisoner’s behaviour can continue to be monitored and secondly to assist in preventing the prisoner from re-offending by helping with their successful re-integration back into the community.

There are two types of licence conditions, standard conditions and additional conditions.

Standard licence conditions
All prisoners released on licence will be subject to a standard licence. This will usually contain six standard licence conditions, namely:- 1. To keep in touch with your supervising officer in accordance with any instruction you may be given, 2. If required to receive visits from your supervising officer at your home/place of residence, 3. To reside permanently at an address approved by supervising officer and notify them in advance of any proposed change of address or any proposed stay away from that approved address.  4. To undertake such work (including voluntary work) approved by your supervising officer and notify them in advance of any proposed change. 5. Not to travel outside the United Kingdom unless otherwise permitted by your supervising officer. 6. To be well behaved, and not to commit any offences or do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, which is to protect the public, prevent you from re-offending and help you to re-settle successfully into the community.

Additional licence conditions These can be imposed if an offender manager believes that the standard conditions are not by them self sufficient. In such cases any licence will explicitly state the additional conditions and their requirements. Detailed information regarding exactly what additional licence conditions can be imposed and the suggested wording of such licence conditions is set out within Annex A and B of Prison Service Instrument (PSI) 34/2011.

If however it is felt that standard or additional licence conditions are not sufficient to manage a prisoner’s specific risk factors, an offender manager can make an application to impose ‘bespoke’ conditions that is believed to be necessary and proportionate to manage a specific risk. In such cases a formal application needs to be made by the offender manager to the Licence variation team.

Who imposes additional licence conditions?
A prisoner’s offender manager will initially assess whether there is a need for additional licence conditions. These will be proposed prior to release. For fixed term prisoners, who know their release date, these will be approved by the governor on behalf of the Secretary of State. Prison governors may only approve requests for additional licence requirements and must not insert conditions that have not been recommended by offender managers. In the case of indeterminate sentence prisoners it will be for the Parole Board to decide on the appropriate conditions to be imposed when they make a direction for release.

The criteria for imposing licence conditions
Standard and additional licences conditions can only be imposed upon a prisoner if there are deemed lawful. They must therefore be necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. In order for the condition to be necessary there has to be no other means available or appropriate to manage a particular risk. For a condition to be proportionate it has to be the minimum restriction upon a prisoner’s liberty required to manage the risk. The aim licence conditions should not be to punish a prisoner further.

Issuing of licences and their conditions
A prisoner must be given a copy of licence and its conditions upon release from prison. Additionally prison staff must explain the licence conditions to the prisoners prior to their release from custody, to ensure that they fully understand the conditions imposed.

Challenging licence conditions
If a prisoner feels that any licence conditions imposed are not necessary or are disproportionate or most importantly does not understand the conditions being imposed, then they should initially consider speaking to their offender manager or contacting a prison law solicitor for further advice.
What if licence conditions are breached?
Breach of licence conditions will often result in a prisoner’s recall to custody. A licence can be said to have been to have been breached if:- • A further offence has been alleged to have been committed; • An offender manager believes that a prisoner’s behavior has  deteriorated to such an extent that they are no longer manageable in the community, • Or there has been a direct breach of the conditions that have been imposed.
The offender manager will consider the case and may in the first instance decide to give the prisoner a warning. However, the ultimate sanction will be that the prisoner’s licence will be revoked and the prisoner will be recalled to custody. This will usually be dependent on the severity of the breach.

How long can you go back to prison for when licence is revoked
The length of time a prisoner will spend in custody following recall will be dependent on the type of recall instigated. A recall can be for a fixed period of 28 days, which is known as a Fixed Term recall.  However, many prisoners will find that they have been recalled following a Standard recall. This type of recall can result in the prisoners remaining in custody until their sentence expiry date or until the parole board deems that they are suitable for release.

If a prisoner has been recalled then they are advised to seek legal advice as soon as possible as representations can be made to seek re-release and if re-release is unsuccessful advice and assistance will usually be required to ensure that a prisoner is able to make successful progression through the prison system to secure their re- release at the earliest opportunity.
It is vital prisoners seek legal advice as soon as possible following any recall so that paperwork can be obtained, considered and detailed representations prepared and submitted on behalf of the prisoner outlining why they should be re-released on license once again.

Once the Parole Board are in a position to consider a case they will make a decision based on the papers provided to them including any representations submitted. The Parole Board will then make one of the following decisions: • Order the prisoner’s immediate release back into the community; • Make no recommendation for release; • Direct that the matter be listed for an oral hearing so that oral evidence can be considered before they make one of the two decisions above.

What lessons can be learnt?
Licence conditions can easily be ignored by prisoners but if they are breached there are serious consequences which can ultimately impact upon a prisoner’s liberty, even following release from custody. The purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of knowing what your licence conditions are, if you are going to be released on licence, so that you can seek advice about challenging them if of course appropriate.

If you need any help or advice with any prison law issues please contact Emma Davies at Hine Solicitors. FREEPOST – RSTC-URCY-XYZL, Hine Solicitors, 149-151 Fairview Road, Cheltenham, GL52 2EX.

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