Parole and Release on Licence

The parole/early release system allows prisoners to be released, on licence and under specific conditions, to serve part of their sentence under supervision in the community.

Determinate sentence prisoners

Offenders serving a sentence of 4 years or more are entitled to be considered for parole by the Parole Board for Scotland after serving half the sentence (but they can decline to be considered). Such prisoners, who are not granted parole, are released on licence when they have served two-thirds of their sentence. The licence lasts to the expiry of the full sentence and the offender remains liable to recall to custody until that date.

Life sentence prisoners

Offenders sentenced to life imprisonment or detention without limit of time have the right to be considered for release by the Parole Board once they have served the punishment part of their sentence, i.e. that part of the sentence that the sentencing judge decides the prisoner must serve to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. In considering such cases, the Parole Board sits as a Life Prisoner Tribunal and has the power to direct the prisoner's release on life licence if it is satisfied the prisoner does not require to continue to be detained for the protection of the public. If a direction is given to release the prisoner, Scottish Ministers are by law obliged to accept the direction. The licence remains in force for the remainder of the individual's natural life and he/she remains liable to recall to custody.

Order for lifelong restriction

As a form of life sentence, an order for lifelong restriction can be impsed by the High Court for violent and sexual offenders considered to pose a contiuning danger to the public. The question of their release is determined under the Tribunal arrangements outlined above.

Children in custody

The Parole Board advises Scottish Ministers about the release on licence of children sentenced to detention under solemn procedure. If released on licence, the individual is required to comply with the conditions stipulated in the licence and remains liable to recall to custody.

Short term sex offenders

Such offenders sentenced to a term of between 6 months and less than 4 years' imprisonment are required to be released on licence at the two-thirds stage of sentence and are subject to post release supervison under conditions determined by Scottish Ministers. Such cases are not considered by the Parole Board. The licence last to the expiry of the full sentence and the offender remains liable to recall to custody until that date.

Compassionate release