Unlawful recall – case significance

This case happened at a transition between two different systems for recalling and re-releasing prisoners who had previously been released on licence.

Our client had served half of a three-year sentence and was released on a licence, which was to run up to the three-quarters point of the total sentence. During this period, he was recalled to prison for breaching his licence by not going to a probation appointment.

The claimant was re-released when it emerged that he had been in hospital at the time. At this point, his remaining licence should (under the older system) have continued to run to the three-quarters point. Instead, the newer system was applied and he was given a licence for all of the remaining time in the total sentence. He served up to and beyond the three-quarters point without incident, but was then recalled for a breach of licence during the final quarter of his sentence.

After a full hearing, the court agreed that this was unlawful as he should not have been on licence at that point, so should not have been recalled. Our client received £14,500 compensation for four months’ unlawful imprisonment following his recall.

Although this case was successful it has not set a lasting precedent. In 2008, the law was changed to permit the extension of licences to the end of sentence in otherwise atypical situations like this one.