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Prisoners using loophole to get out of jail early

Frances Fitzgerald is asking the Supreme Court to clarify the law.

Image: Shutterstock/antb

TEN PRISONERS HAVE been freed early from Irish jails because of a loophole.

The prisoners were all transferred from the UK to Ireland and were released early due to differences between sentencing systems in Ireland and Britain.

Under the UK Criminal Justice Act – prisoners sentenced to terms of more than one year serve 50% of their overall period in custody and are automatically released on licence for the remaining 50% with the possibility of being returned to custody.

However, in Ireland a prisoner can serve the entire period of imprisonment subject to remission - unless part of a sentence is suspended.

Vincent Sweeney was sentenced in the UK to 16 years in 2006, he was transferred to Ireland in 2008 and argued that he should be entitled to an early release here as he was jailed under the UK regime.

He lost his challenge in the High Court but won an appeal to the Supreme Court last July and was immediately released.

Three other men who were jailed in 2002 and transferred to Ireland in 2006 were released in December after they challenged their continued detention in the High Court.

The Justice Department told TheJournal.ie that it has “been considering the implications of the Fintan O’Farrell, Michael McDonald, Declan Rafferty v Governor Portlaoise Prison judgment for future cases of prisoner management including whether any changes to the current legislation may be necessary.

It added that “steps have been taken to appeal the case to the Supreme Court”.

It’s understood that six other prisoners have been released on the same grounds.

The Irish Examiner reports that all applications for prisoner transfers from the UK are now on hold.

Read: Prisoner stabbed in head with ‘sharpened spoon’ in serious condition>

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