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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK

UK Politics

Over 400 prisoners qualify for early release

Northern Ireland minister, Adam Ingrams

There are more than 400 prisoners who may be eligible for early release under the Northern Ireland Sentences Bill currently on its way through the Commons.

Of the 402 prisoners serving sentences of five years or longer for terrorist offences, 129 are serving life sentences.

The figures were released by Northern Ireland minister, Adam Ingram, in response to a Commons written question.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, prisoners will be eligible for early release if they comply with the following conditions set by the Sentence Review Commission:

  • Whether they are serving five years or more for a scheduled offence that has not been de-scheduled by the Attorney General.

  • That they do not support a terrorist organisation.

  • That, if released immediately, they would not be likely to become a supporter of a terrorist organisation or become concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

  • That a life-sentence prisoner released immediately would not be a danger to the public.

    Under the terms of the Bill the Secretary of State for Nothern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, will judge which organisations shall be seen as 'terrorists' if they fall foul of one of the following criteria:

  • They must be committed to peace.

  • They must not engage in violence or preparations for violence.

  • They must also seen to be co-operating fully with the international terrorist weapons decommissioning body.

    As well as the 402 prisoners in Northern Ireland there are also 20 prisoners, including seven serving life sentences, convicted of similar offences who have been transferred to jails in Northern Ireland from mainland Britain.

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