Early Prisoner Release

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): In June, Andrew Mournian was jailed for 20 weeks for battery after attacking his partner, Amanda Murphy.

He had previous convictions for violence and assault. On 18 August, having been released from jail, Mr. Mournian again attacked Mrs. Murphy, but this time he brutally murdered her. He was convicted last week. It now transpires that Mr. Mournian had been released early from prison under the Government's end of custody licence scheme, and he killed Mrs. Murphy five days later, when he should have been behind bars. What does the Secretary of State have to say to Mrs. Murphy's relatives about the Government's decision to release such offenders early?

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): This was a shameful murder, and as with any murder, our heart goes out to the relatives and friends of the victim. But I hope, since the hon. Gentleman wishes to make something of this terrible incident, that he will take note of what the learned judge-a senior High Court judge, Mrs. Justice Swift-said in her sentencing remarks. When sentencing Mournian to life imprisonment and ordering that he serve a minimum tariff of 14 years, she said that she did not believe that the defendant's early release had led to Miss Murphy's death. She went on to say that the defendant would have carried out the attack whenever he was released.

It is a huge matter of regret that this happened at all, but it is extremely difficult, given what the learned judge who heard the details of the case said-and neither the hon. Gentleman nor I have done so-to say that his early release was a contributory factor to this murder.

Nick Herbert: The Secretary of State just told the House that one of his principal duties was to ensure public safety. It will be of no consolation at all to the relatives of Mrs. Murphy to be told by anybody that she might have been murdered at some future point. The fact is that her murderer should have been behind bars at that point. He was not because the Government had failed to provide enough prison places and had released that offender on to the streets, along with, it must be said, 11,000 other offenders, including violent offenders released early-before the end of their sentence and without risk assessment.

Nick Herbert