News – Ministers urged to close loophole that frees stalkers and violent domestic abusers after quarter of sentence

Ministers have been urged to close a loophole that allows violent domestic abusers, stalkers and harassers to be released early from prison, as little as a quarter of the way through their jail sentences. 

Claire Waxman, the victims’ commissioner for London, is proposing law changes following cases where violent stalkers and abusers guilty of multiple breaches of restraining orders have been freed just months into sentences of up to two years. 

The cross-party amendments, backed by former victims’ commissioner Baroness Newlove, would exclude anyone convicted of domestic abuse, stalking or harassment from home detention curfews, under which offenders are released on a tag a quarter of the way through their sentence. 

The changes are backed by victims, including a mother whose ex-partner is seeking to be released in January, six months into a two-year sentence for “stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress”, the most serious category of the offence. 

He breached three restraining orders to target her, their daughter, her new partner, family and friends with a physical and online campaign of harassment that included emails to her employer to try to force her out of her job and signing her up for porn sites.

It culminated in him making a malicious anonymous phone call to NSPCC’s childline accusing her of child abuse, forcing social services to carry out an investigation until his computer was linked to the call.

He was jailed in July for two years but, even from prison, has secured legal aid to fight for access to his daughter through the family courts. “He is just using the family court system to continue the abuse and harassment and getting away with it,” she said. 

“His solicitor told me he expected to be out of prison in January. I thought we would get some peace with him locked up, then I find out he might be out in six months’ time. It’s horrific after fighting so hard to get him locked up. The moment he is out he will continue it online.”

Another case saw a violent abuser who beat up his girlfriend released on a tag a quarter of the way through his 18-month sentence. Despite being on a 10-year restraining order for violence, he turned up near the woman’s safe house.

Under home detention curfew, anyone sentenced to four months can be released after 28 days. For anyone serving a jail term of four to 18 months, it is a quarter. And for those sentenced to 18 months to four years, it is half the sentence plus 135 days.

The approach contrasts with the Government’s new laws ending automatic early release at the halfway point for violent and sexual offenders sentenced to more than four years. Instead, they are subject to parole board review two-thirds of the way through their sentences.

Ms Waxman said: “It is absolutely critical that those convicted of stalking, harassment, coercive control, or domestic abuse are not made eligible for release from prison under the Home Detention Curfew scheme. 

“This loophole currently allows fixated perpetrators to leave prison as quickly as 28 days from when they are sentenced – leaving vulnerable victims at high risk of further harm. 

“I’m aware of cases where a perpetrator who has breached restraining orders multiple times has been approved for release despite clearly presenting an ongoing risk to a victim.”

The Ministry of Justice said: “Home Detention Curfew is a well-established scheme to reduce reoffending which allows low-risk offenders to be reintegrated into the community under strict licence conditions and made to wear a tag.”

 “The policy is reviewed regularly to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place to protect victims and the public.”

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