Introduced in their current form in 2012, an extended sentence differs from a determinate sentence in two important ways: firstly, rather than being released from prison automatically at the halfway point of the sentence, someone serving an extended sentence must spend at least two-thirds of the sentence in prison and can only be released from prison before the expiry of the full sentence if the Parole Board considers that they no longer pose an unacceptable level of risk to the public; and secondly, the period served on licence can be extended by up to a maximum of five years for a specified violent offence and up to eight years for a specified sexual offence.  

There are four conditions that must be met for a court to impose an extended sentence on an offender aged 18 or over:

  • the offender must be convicted of a specified violent, sexual or terrorist offence set out in Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003;
  • the court must find that the offender poses a significant risk to the public of committing further specified offences;
  • a sentence of life imprisonment is not available (as the offence does not have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment) or justified (as the offence, though serious, does not meet the high threshold to merit a life sentence); and
  • either the offender has a previous conviction for an offence listed in Schedule 15B to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (a smaller group of the most serious violent, sexual and terrorist offences) or the current offence justifies a custodial term of at least four years.

On 31 December 2019, there were 5,669 people in prison serving an extended sentence – thus making up just under 7% of the prison population.

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