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25 life or indeterminate sentence inmates granted Christmas release from Northern Ireland's prisons

More than half of the 93 inmates granted Christmas leave are serving sentences at Maghaberry high-security prison in Lisburn

TWENTY-FIVE life or indeterminate sentence inmates arebing released from prisons across Northern Ireland for the Christmas holidays.

Beginning yesterday and running until January 3, a total of 93 prisoners from Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood are being released for varying periods as part of the Christmas Home Leave scheme.

The majority of the inmates, 51, are currently serving sentences in the north's only high-security facility, Maghaberry, while 35 are being released from Magilligan and four young offenders and three women are availing of the scheme in Hydebank Wood.

In order to be eligible for the program, prisoners have to pass a risk assessment, have a recommendation from the parole commissioner and have either successfully completed a home leave programme or undergone periods of unaccompanied testing in the community.

Furthermore, inmates serving extended custodial sentences - those for specified sexual or violent offences for which the maximum penalty is no more than 10 years - must have served at least half of their tariff before being considered for the scheme.

In addition to these stipulations, prisoners serving life sentences or indeterminate custodial sentences must be within three years of the end of their tariff before being considered for Christmas release. Remand prisoners are not eligible for Christmas Home Leave.

At 93, the number of successful applicants to the scheme is down 15 per cent from last year, when 108 prisoners were released over the holiday period.

There are currently 1,445 prisoners being held in the Northern Ireland prison system, with just over 1000 of those serving time in Maghaberry.

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