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Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002

Victims of Crime

Section 68: Information about discharge and temporary release of prisoners

136.The Secretary of State must make a victim information scheme under subsection (1) to give to victims of offences the information specified in subsection (3), that is, the month in which it is anticipated that the offender will be discharged and, where reasonably practicable, the fact that the offender is being considered for temporary release under the Prison Rules(6). The scheme can make provision about the giving of further, more detailed information (subsection (4)). However, information need not be given in the circumstances described in subsection (8), for example, where this would adversely affect the well-being of a victim or threaten the safety of any person.

137.The information is to be given to the actual victim of the offence. But the Secretary of State may decide that it should also be given to other persons who he considers to have been directly affected by the offence (subsection (5)), such as the immediate family of a murder victim, or a person who was present when a violent offence was committed. The Secretary of State may also decide that the information should not be given to the actual victim but should instead be given to some other person on his behalf (subsection (6)), such as when the victim is a young child or is mentally disabled.

Section 69: Views on temporary release

138.This section makes provision for the rights of victims in relation to the temporary release of prisoners under the Prison Rules. The Secretary of State must have regard to representations made by any person considered by the Secretary of State to be a victim of the offence for the purposes of the scheme made under section 68 if they are to the effect that the temporary release of the person serving a sentence in respect of that offence would threaten the safety or adversely affect the well-being of the actual victim or a person regarded as a victim by virtue of section 68(5). Thus, a person who is a victim for the purposes of the scheme by virtue of section 68(6) may make representations but they must relate to the safety or well-being of the actual victim or a person who is a victim by virtue of subsection (5) of that section. The victim making the representations must be informed of the decision (subsection (3).

Section 70: Supplementary

139.This section makes provision supplementary to sections 68 and 69. Victim information schemes will only cover information about offenders aged 18 or over. Subsection (1) makes it clear that the victim information scheme will cover information about offenders aged 18 or over who were detained pursuant to Article 45 of the 1998 Order (i.e. who were found guilty of grave crimes as children and who are still in detention after they have attained the age of 18) or who were detained in a young offenders centre by the Crown Court (a young offenders centre can hold persons aged between 16 and 24, see Article 7 of the Treatment of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1989).

140.The effect of subsection (2) is to require the scheme to cover-

  • prisoners who are transferred from a prison in Northern Ireland to a prison elsewhere in the United Kingdom on what is known as a restricted transfer. Restricted transfer has the same meaning as in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. It means that, despite the transfer, they remain subject to Northern Ireland law in relation to their imprisonment, and

  • prisoners on unrestricted transfer from another part of the United Kingdom, as they will be subject to Northern Ireland law in relation to discharge and temporary release.

141.The scheme will not cover -

  • prisoners transferred from Northern Ireland to another part of the United Kingdom on an unrestricted transfer, or

  • prisoners on restricted transfer from another United Kingdom jurisdiction, since they are not subject to discharge and temporary release provisions under Northern Ireland law (but remain governed by the law of the other part of the United Kingdom from which they were transferred).


Rule 27 of the Prisons and Young Offenders Centre Rules (Northern Ireland) 1995 permits the temporary release of eligible prisoners for any special purpose or to enable a prisoner to have medical treatment, to engage in employment, to receive instruction or training or to assist in the transition from prison to outside life (S.R. 1995 No.8).

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