Pris­oner who has served 11 years on 10-month sen­tence to be re­leased

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Kevin Rawl­in­son

A pris­oner who has served 11 years in jail af­ter ini­tially be­ing sen­tenced to a min­i­mum of less than one is to be re­leased, the Pa­role Board has said.

James Ward, who was given a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment for pub­lic pro­tec­tion (IPP) with a min­i­mum of 10 months to be served for ar­son in 2006, will be re­leased within weeks, ac­cord­ing to his fam­ily.

They told BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme the Pa­role Board had agreed to his re­lease once suit­able ac­com­mo­da­tion and care sup­port was found. They have pre­vi­ously said Ward, whose pa­role hear­ings had re­peat­edly been de­layed, had been “left to rot”.

He was said to have lost a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight in prison and to have self-harmed, mean­ing he would need care upon his re­lease.

Ward’s sis­ter, April Ward, told To­day that his so­lic­i­tor had told the fam­ily about the de­ci­sion, but James might not yet know. “So, it’s very ex­cit­ing.”

She said she felt over­whelmed by the news. “I can­not ex­plain the re­lief of the de­ci­sion. It’s over­whelm­ing with all emo­tions; quite bit­ter­sweet this morn­ing.”

April Ward said she was con­fi­dent her brother would get the men­tal health care he needed upon his re­lease. She said: “We, as a fam­ily, will make sure that James’s re­lease is suc­cess­ful; [that] the self-harm he gets help with. It’s very bit­ter­sweet that it’s taken 10 years for a Pa­role Board to fi­nally see what we’ve been shout­ing for over 10 years: that James is not a risk to the pub­lic.

“The de­ci­sion of the Pa­role Board isn’t down to a course or any dif­fer­ence in James’ be­haviour, it’s down to the fact that – fi­nally – they’ve seen that James is not a risk to the pub­lic.”

A spokesman for the Pa­role Board said: “We can con­firm that a three­mem­ber panel of the Pa­role Board has di­rected the re­lease of James Ward fol­low­ing an oral hear­ing on 4 Septem­ber 2017. The Pa­role Board is un­able to com­ment on the specifics of in­di­vid­ual cases.”.

Its chair has pre­vi­ously told the govern­ment to “get a grip” on the is­sue of pris­on­ers serv­ing in­de­ter­mi­nate sen­tences and IPPs, which were given to pris­on­ers judged to be a risk to the pub­lic and were abol­ished for sen­tences passed af­ter De­cem­ber 2012.

Thou­sands of peo­ple in Eng­land and Wales re­main in jail on them, with no re­lease date.

Nick Hard­wick, the chair of the Pa­role Board and a for­mer chief in­spec­tor of pris­ons, has pre­vi­ously said: “The lev­els of sui­cide, as­sault, and self-harm [in prison] is un­ac­cept­ably high. It’s the fault of po­lit­i­cal and pol­icy de­ci­sions that should have been put right two years ago.”

Pho­to­graph: BBC

James Ward was said to have lost a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight in prison and to have self-harmed.

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