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Session 1997-98
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Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Northern Ireland (Sentences) Bill
  The Bill makes provision for the release on licence of certain persons serving sentences in Northern Ireland who have been convicted in Northern Ireland of a scheduled offence or have been convicted of a similar offence in Great Britain and been transferred to Northern Ireland to serve their sentence.
  Clause 1 provides for the appointment by the Secretary of State of Sentence Review Commissioners. Schedule 1 makes further provision about the Commissioners.
  Clause 2 gives effect to Schedule 2 which gives the Secretary of State the power to make rules regarding the procedure to be followed by the Commissioners.
  Clause 3 enables a prisoner serving a sentence passed in Northern Ireland to apply to the Commissioners for a declaration that he is eligible for release in accordance with the Bill and sets out the criteria against which such an application will be considered. The Secretary of State is given the power by order to specify a terrorist organisation which has the effect that a prisoner who supports such an organisation is ineligible for release under the Bill.
  Clause 4 provides that a fixed term prisoner who is granted a declaration under clause 3 has a right to be released on licence after serving a third of his sentence.
  Clause 5 makes provision in connection with fixed term prisoners regarding the treatment of periods spent on remand in custody and of sentences supplemented by a period of imprisonment in accordance with section 16(2) of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996.
  Clause 6 provides that a prisoner serving a life sentence who is granted a declaration under clause 3 has a right to be released after serving two thirds of the period he would have been likely to have served.
  Clause 7 requires the Secretary of State to provide the Commissioners with information regarding the periods served by prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment in Northern Ireland between 1982 and 1999 and requires the Commissioners to take account of this information as well as their own previous decisions in setting a date for release.
  Clause 8 provides that the Secretary of State may apply to the Commissioners to revoke a declaration granted under clause 3 on the grounds that any of the conditions in that clause are not satisfied.
  Clause 9 sets out the licence conditions that apply to prisoners released under the Bill and enables the Secretary of State to suspend a licence and the Commissioners to confirm or revoke the licence.
  Clause 10 makes provision for the accelerated release of prisoners, in respect of whom a declaration has been made under clause 3, after a period of two years from the commencement of the Bill or from the start of the sentence (depending on the circumstances). The Secretary of State may by order change the period in question.
  Clause 11 requires the Commissioners and the Secretary of State to give reasons for certain decisions to the other as well as to the prisoner affected by the decision.
  Clause 13 provides that evidence and information given by prisoners to the Commissioners are not admissible in certain proceedings.
  Clause 14 gives the Secretary of State the power by order to suspend or revive the operation of clauses 3 and 10.
  Clause 15 gives the Secretary of State the power by order to apply clauses 3 to 13 to prisoners sentenced in Great Britain for certain offences committed in connection with terrorism and the affairs of Northern Ireland and who have been transferred to Northern Ireland to serve their sentences.
  Clause 16 amends section 3 of the Northern Ireland (Remission of Sentences) Act 1995.
 Financial Effects of the Bill
  The Bill is likely to result in additional public expenditure to meet the costs of appointing and remunerating commissioners and related costs. In addition, legal assistance will be available to assist prisoners in preparing applications to the Commissioners.
  Any costs arising as a result of the Bill will be contained within the Government's planned overall spending totals.
 Effect of the Bill on public service manpower
  A small number of staff will be required to provide administrative support to the Commissioners. These staff will be contained within existing resources.
 Business compliance cost assessment
  The Bill is not likely to have any impact on businesses, charities or voluntary organisations.
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Prepared 5 June 1998