My client is serving a determinate sentence in default of a confiscation order and had progressed to the open estate. He is considered low risk. Prior to the COVID restrictions he had been released on temporary license (ROTL) daily to attend work and support his family.Sadly his wife was diagnosed with cancer some months ago. The COVID-19 lockdown and the decision to stop prisoners having ROTL had a disastrous impact upon the family. His wife has been left juggling full-time care of two children while undergoing chemotherapy with no support.
Initially we sought to make an application for release under the coronavirus temporary release scheme but were told that this was not possible as the sentence our client is serving is in default of a confiscation order, and he fell outside of the two-month window.
Following this we applied for compassionate release (which is still under consideration). As applications for compassionate release take a notoriously significant amount of time to be considered, we have been looking at alternatives to allow the client to support his family. But the authority to grant ROTL has been removed from prison governors’ hands as a result of COVID-19, so despite the establishments best efforts, processes were taking too long and we were hitting numerous barriers.
Sadly his wife’s health deteriorated, and she was admitted to hospital last week. In response to this, I made numerous phone calls to every department and sent emails to any address I could find (including the director general of prisons).
On Friday, my client was directed temporary release from custody until next week to support his family.
Last week was a tough one as I have been unwell, and juggling childcare with work like so many are during this crisis. But I am pleased with the results achieved for clients, including two successful oral hearings via telephone conference and a paper decision, directing the release of an elderly recalled lifer who has complex care needs.
Achieving temporary release for my client to support his wife and children was the cherry on the cake and it was great to end the week on a high. But it is concerning that release of a low risk prisoner requires such grave family circumstances and huge amounts of work for legal representatives, especially considering the exceptional circumstances arising from COVID-19.