Government have confirmed that a Bill to amend the Prison Act 2011 and the Prison Regulations 2011 was unanimously passed in Parliament on 15th July 2019.
The Law Commission considered the point at which a person serving a prison sentence should become eligible for parole under the Prison Act 2011 and subsequently made a series of recommendations for reform. The Law Commission, includes the Minister for Justice and HM Attorney General, as ex-officio members, together with members of the judiciary and distinguished professionals in different fields in law, environment, financial services, and education,.
Those Law Commission’s proposals were presented for consultation by way of a Command Paper, following which a Bill to amend the Prison Act 2011 was published. The Bill was passed unanimously by parliament.
The changes increase the minimum time to be served for inmates serving a fixed-term sentence from the current third to half of their sentence. There will now be 3 different categories based on the overall length of the sentence:
1. Prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less will be automatically released at the half way point of their sentences without licence conditions;
2. Those inmates serving sentences greater than 12 months and up to 4 years will also be automatically released at the half way point. In such cases, inmates will be subject to licence conditions to be recommended by the Parole Board up to three-quarters of the sentence (subject to any revocation or additional days that may be imposed); and
3. Inmates serving sentences greater than 4 years will be eligible to apply for parole at the half way point. The release of such inmates will not be automatic and will require consideration by the Parole Board as is currently the case. It will remain the Parole Board’s duty to advise the Minister whether to release a prisoner on licence and on which conditions. Licence conditions, subject to any revocation or additional days that may be imposed, will remain in force for three-quarters of the sentence.
Persons who do not abide by the conditions set out in their Parole licenses will still be recalled to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence.
It is hugely important to note that the changes brought about by the Act will have prospective, and not retrospective, effect, meaning that the new provisions will only apply to persons first detained after the commencement of the Act.
The system of remission will be replaced by a system of award of additional days. Additional days for disciplinary offences will be added to the computation of any period of time used to calculate any period governing a person’s release. The effect of the additional days is to delay release from prison by the aggregate number of additional days awarded. It also enables those days to be added to a licence period.
The Minister for Health, Care and Justice, the Honourable Neil F. Costa MP said: “I wish to, once again, express my unstinting gratitude to all the members of the Law Commission for their significant contributions to this important reform of Gibraltar’s Prison Act. These reforms to our laws strike the right balance between deterrence, public protection, and successful reintegration into the community. The new law will begin on the 25th July 2019.”