What is a ‘determinate sentence’? When are people subject to ‘extended licence periods’? Does ‘life’ ever mean life? See below for a helpful jargon- buster when it comes to prison sentences.

In the UK there are three broad categories of prison sentence:

‘Determinate’ Sentences

This is the most common type of custodial sentence handed down by the Courts. Here, the Court sets a fixed length for the sentence: For example, if you’re sentenced to a determinate sentence of 6 years in custody, then six years is the maximum amount of time that you will spend in prison on that particular sentence. However, depending on the precise length of your sentence and when you were sentenced, you won’t necessarily spend the entire length of your sentence in custody. We will soon be publishing another blog post discussing the finer details of ‘being released on licence’ and ‘post-sentence supervision’ as they apply to determinate sentences.

‘Extended’ Sentences

So-called ‘extended sentences’ were introduced following the abolition of IPPs (‘Sentences of Imprisonment for the Protection of the Public’) to deal with adults who had been convicted of certain violent and sexual offences and who were deemed by the Court to be particularly ‘dangerous’. In such cases, the Court decides how long the offender should stay in prison and also fixes an extended licence period (up to a maximum of eight years). Depending on the specifics of the offence, the offender will either be automatically released at the two- thirds point of the custodial element of their sentence or- for particularly dangerous individuals- will become eligible to apply for parole at that point. Once released from custody they will then become subject to the extended licence period, and therefore liable to be recalled if they breach their licence conditions.

Life Sentences

A ‘life’ sentence means that the offender in question will be subject to the sentence (but will not necessarily remain in custody) for the rest of their life. When passing a life sentence, the Court will set the minimum term- otherwise known as a ‘tariff’- that an individual will have to serve before they are eligible for parole. In the event that they are released then they are subject to licence- and therefore liable to be recalled- for the rest of their life.

In the most serious of cases, Judges can impose ‘whole- life’ tariffs. Put simply, this means that the individual will never be considered for release. Approximately 100 individuals have been made subject to whole-life tariffs in the UK. These include some of the most notorious individuals in British criminal history such as Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, Fred and Rose West, and Peter Sutcliffe.

WMB Law has decades of experience in dealing with people throughout all stages of the criminal process- from the initial interview at the Police Station to trial and sentence. We are also the only firm in Shropshire with a dedicated Prison Law department who are able to answer any and all queries related to periods spent in custody, including applications for Parole, recalls to custody, adjudications, release on ‘Home Detention Curfew’ and sentence calculations. If you have a query then contact out offices on 01952 291 100 or write to us at Kingsland House, Stafford Park 1, Telford TF3 3BD.