The leader of the opposition has slammed the government after a damning report into a prison found an inmate deemed “a risk to children” had his release date brought forward.

Keir Starmer criticised Rishi Sunak’s government over its scheme allowing some inmates to be freed early to ease overcrowding in jails, citing the report by the prisons watchdog into HMP Lewes in the town's Brighton Road.

After an inspection, the report, published on Tuesday, revealed that “a high-risk prisoner had his release date brought forward despite having a history of stalking, domestic abuse and being subject to a restraining order.”


The report, by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, said the prisoner was “also a risk to children”.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Starmer said: “He [Sunak] may want to read the recent inspection report into Lewes Prison on this topic I have asked him twice about.

The Argus: Inside Lewes PrisonInside Lewes Prison (Image: HMP Lewes)

“It documents high-risk prisoners being realised at short notice without sufficient planning.

“Does the early release of stalkers, domestic abusers and those considered a risk to children sound like the work of someone who is making the country more secure?”

Mr Starmer had previously asked Mr Sunak about the scheme which was introduced last October to release “low-level offenders” from prisons in England and Wales up to 18 days early.

The government said such freed prisoners would be released only “under strict supervision”.

In March this was raised to 60 days in March and will be further extended to 70 days from May 23.

Mr Starmer told the Commons: “So will he at least guarantee that none of the criminals he is instructing [prisons] to release early are considered high risk?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replied: “There are strict eligibility criteria in place, with exclusions based on public safety and no one will be put on the scheme if they were deemed a threat to public safety.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "While we will always ensure there is enough capacity to keep dangerous offenders behind bars, this scheme allows us to ease short-term pressures on prisons by moving some lower-level offenders at the end of their custodial term on to licence.

"These offenders will continue to be supervised under strict conditions such as tagging and curfews, and the prison service can block the earlier release of any individual who poses a heightened risk."