Domestic abuse victims should not pay the price of prison overcrowding

In a debate in the House of Commons today, Minister Edward Argar confirmed that the Early Release Scheme has been expanded again, allowing prisoners to be released up to 70 days before the end of their sentence. Originally, prisoners were released up to 18 days before the end of their sentence, and in March it was extended to between 35 and 60 days, although the Lord Chancellor stated that the Ministry of Justice would “work with the police, prisons and probation leaders to make further adjustments as required.”—[Official Report, 12 March 2024; Vol. 747, c. 157.]

Responding to the extension, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, says, “Perpetrators of domestic abuse frequently receive short prison sentences and are likely to be among those released early. The government needs a safe and planned approach – instead they are letting potentially dangerous perpetrators out earlier and earlier with little oversight or evaluation of the scheme.

“That there has been no consultation and victims’ groups were not even made aware of these changes before their introduction is cause for serious concern. Many victims will not even know that their perpetrator is due for early release. This seriously undermines their ability to plan for their own safety, particularly as we know that perpetrators of domestic abuse often reoffend.

“Victims’ safety is being put on the line. I am calling again on the Ministry of Justice to ensure domestic abuse victims do not pay the price for prison overcrowding.

“We need a specific exemption of perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking from this scheme. Government must also ensure that the probation service is funded and trained to properly manage domestic abuse perpetrators and keep victims safe.”