How long will my licence be?

The length of your licence will depend on:

  • When you were sentenced
  • The length of your sentence
  • Any extended licence period given at sentencing

A copy of your licence should be made available to you by your offender manager. This will show the date that your licence ends.

What determines my licence conditions?

There are some standard licence conditions that everybody on licence will be subject to. These include:

  • Good behaviour and not reoffending
  • Letting your supervising officer visit you at home
  • Keeping all your appointments with your supervising officer
  • Living only at the address that has been approved by your supervising officer and obtaining permission if you need or wish to stay elsewhere
  • Only undertaking employment (paid or voluntary) that has been approved by your supervising officer
  • Not travelling outside of the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man without the permission of your supervising officer

You may also be subject to additional conditions, depending on the nature of your offence and the sentence that you received. Your supervising officer will let you know if you are subject to any additional conditions and will explain what these are.

If you are going to be on licence following release from prison, it is the responsibility of the prison governor to include any additional conditions on your licence, although these must be from an approved list and recommended by the Probation Service.

If the Governor or your supervising officer wishes to impose a licence condition that is not on the approved list, advice must be sought from the Public Protection Casework Section. Once the licence conditions have been agreed, your licence will be prepared by Custody/Discipline office and should be explained to you at least one week before release.

If you are subject to a sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) or life sentence then the Parole Board will be responsible for having the final say about any licence conditions proposed by the Probation Service and these will be discussed at any parole review hearing. If you wish to challenge the necessity of a condition then you can do so at the hearing itself via your solicitor if you have instructed one.

How can I challenge my licence conditions?

Licence conditions for life sentenced prisoners can only be changed by the Parole Board.

For other people on licence, it may be possible to get licence conditions changed but it can be difficult and take time. Your supervising officer should keep your licence conditions under review. The greater the restriction on you, the more often they should be reviewed. Licence conditions may be changed if you are making progress, for example, if you have successfully completed a sex offender programme in the community.

However, licence conditions which are put in place for the protection of the victim will not be changed.

These are the steps if you would like to try to change your licence conditions:

  1. Talk to your supervising officer
  1. If you cannot agree, the next stage is to make a formal complaint to the deputy director of your probation division. To find out who this is, you can ask Prison Reform Trust, visit your local library or search for it in the Probation Directory which can be found on the Ministry of Justice website
  1. If you are still unhappy with the response, you can appeal the decision by writing to the deputy director who will organise an independent review of the complaint
  1. The final stage is to write to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman. You can write to the Ombudsman if you have already tried to solve your complaint with probation staff and you are still not happy. The ombudsman’s job is to look at complaints from people on probation and in prisons. You would need to send your papers and a note explaining why you need help. The address is: Prisons and Probation Ombudsman PO Box 70769, London SE1P 4XY

I am serving a sentence of more than two years. How do licence conditions affect me?

Most people sentenced to a determinate custodial sentence of more than two years will automatically be released at the half way stage of their sentence and then subject to licence conditions until the end of their full sentence.

If you breach any of the conditions of your licence, or it is felt that your risk is no longer manageable in the community, you may be recalled to prison. In some cases that recall will be for a fixed period of 28 days or, in others, it will be a standard recall, which means you will not be re-released until the Parole Board considers the case and make a direction for re-release.

I am subject to an indeterminate sentence. How do licence conditions affect me?

If you are serving a life sentence, you will be subject to licence conditions for the rest of your life following your release from prison. If you are serving a sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP), you will be subject to licence conditions for at least 10 years. It is really important that you understand your licence conditions and what is required of you as one breach could lead to your recall to custody. If this happens you will only be released following an oral hearing before the Parole Board. This process is not a quick one and is therefore very likely to have a significant impact on you.

What is post-sentence supervision?

The Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (ORA) came into force on 1 February 2015 and introduced a new period of post-sentence supervision for all those sentenced to less than two years in prison.

The ORA applies to anyone:

  • Whose offence was committed on or after the 1 February 2015
  • Who was sentenced to a prison term of more than one day
  • Who will be 18 years or more when released

Those sentenced to less than two years and released on licence will be subject to an additional period of supervision after their licence period has been completed. The licence and supervision period combined will total 12 months. The length of the supervision period can vary greatly depending on the length of the prison sentence.

Example 1

Dave is sentenced to a 10 months custodial sentence. He will serve five months in custody, five months subject to licence conditions (and eligible to be recalled) and seven months subject to post supervision licence.  This makes a total of 12 months’ supervision after release.

Example 2

Abi is sentenced to a 16-month custodial sentence. She will serve eight months in custody, eight months in the community subject to licence conditions and four months subject to post-sentence supervision.

Prior to 1 February 2015, adults serving prison sentences of less than 12 months were released unconditionally after half of their sentence had been served. After 1 February 2015, adult prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months will be released on licence after serving half of their sentence in prison and will serve the remaining period in the community.

Conditions of post-sentence supervision will usually be at the discretion of the supervising officers.  They will be allowed if the probation officers agree. The conditions must be fair and reasonable and relate to the offence or pattern of offending. In some cases, victims will be told about the licence conditions and have the right to put forward their feelings and views about them. Post-sentence supervision is meant to be rehabilitative. This means that what can be imposed is more limited than the list of licence conditions that are available.

Standard requirements of the supervision period are likely to include:

  • Behaving well
  • Not committing further offences
  • Keeping in touch with your supervising officer
  • Permanently living at an address approved by your supervising officer and obtaining permission if staying for one or more nights at a different address
  • Only doing work that is approved by your supervising officer
  • Not travelling outside the UK without permission

Additional licence conditions may include:

  • Attending appointments with health workers
  • Reporting to a police station to give details of any car you use
  • Staying at home between certain hours (also known as a curfew)
  • Informing your supervising officer if you start a new relationship
  • Attending polygraph test sessions
  • Taking part in a sex-offender programme
  • Not to be in contact with ex-offenders
  • Not to enter a certain place
  • Restrictions on activities you can do
  • Restrictions on using the internet
  • Restrictions on using mobile phones and cameras

Am I allowed to work while on licence?

Yes, you are able to work in a voluntary or paid role while you are on licence, but you must tell your supervising officer. While your supervising officer should generally be encouraging of any work that you secure while under their supervision, their job is to assess and manage any potential risks. If they feel that the nature of your work places you or others at risk, they may speak to the employer about safeguards that could be put in place to manage the risks, or they may refuse you permission to continue in the role.

Do I have to tell my employer that I am on licence?

Not necessarily. While you are on licence and for some time after, your conviction will be unspent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This means that if your employer asks about your criminal record during the unspent period, you will be legally obliged to disclose it to them.

Your employer may like the skills and experience you can offer, but have concerns about your criminal record. If you are asked for a criminal record declaration while you are on licence, it can sometime be helpful if you agree to the employer speaking to your supervising officer who may be able to offer some reassurance to the employer.

If you are not asked for a criminal record declaration, there is no legal requirement for you to disclose your unspent conviction or that you are currently on licence. However, if your supervising officer has concerns about this, or any risks that need to be managed in the workplace, you may be required to make a disclosure. For further advice about preparing a criminal record disclosure, please see here.

Do I have to tell my probation officer if I find/start work?

Yes, it is important that you let your probation officer or supervising officer know if you find work (whether paid or voluntary). They will need to make sure that the job will not breach your licence conditions or place you, or others, at risk of harm.

What happens if I breach my licence conditions?

If you have been released from prison on licence, you can be recalled to prison if you breach the terms of your licence. Your licence will be revoked meaning that your licence to live in the community has been taken away and you must be returned to prison.

  • How long will I be in prison for?

This will depend on the type of recall you are subject to. There are three different types of recall:

  1. Fixed term recall. You will be recalled for a fixed period of 28 days. You are eligible for this unless you are serving a sentence for a violent or a sexual offence, you are serving an extended sentence, you have been recalled before on the same sentence or you were recalled before the automatic release date having being released early under the Home Detention Curfew (HDC, or tag) scheme, or compassionate grounds.
  1. Standard recall. This applies if you are not eligible for a fixed recall because you are serving a sentence for a violent or a sexual offence, you are serving an extended sentence or because it is felt that you are too much of a risk to be eligible for a fixed-term recall. You may remain in custody until the end of your sentence or until the parole board considers you suitable for release.
  1. Emergency recall. This applies where you are eligible for standard recall but your risk of harm or risk of reoffending is thought too serious to warrant release.
  • What happens next?

You will be given the reasons for your recall and the opportunity to make representations to the Parole Board. You should do this with the help of your solicitor. The Parole Board will then have the opportunity to view all the papers relating to the recall, including any representations you have made. They must then decide on one of four actions:

  1. Order your immediate release back on to licence
  2. Refuse immediate release but order your release at a future date
  3. Make no recommendation at all
  4. Send your case to an oral hearing
  • Can I appeal against the decision of the Parole Board?

You will be given the full reasons for the Parole Board’s decision. You can then either accept it or request a hearing in front of the Parole Board in person. This is called an ‘oral hearing’ and it takes place in the prison where the prisoner is being held. At the oral hearing you can give evidence and call witnesses. There has to be a strong argument in favour of an oral hearing as one will not be granted purely on the basis that you want one. At the oral hearing the Parole Board will make one of the four decisions above.

  • What if the Parole Board refuses to release me after an oral hearing?

If the Parole Board refuses to release you after conducting an oral hearing, the only way the decision can be challenged further is by way of judicial review proceedings in the Administrative Court. This is a complicated procedure so you should seek legal advice before pursuing this course of action.

There are different implications if post-sentence supervision is breached. If you breach any element of your post-sentence supervision then you may be summoned to appear before a magistrates’ court. If the breach is proved, the court may order that you be sentenced to a custodial sentence for up to 14 days, or impose further sanctions such as unpaid work or electronic location monitoring. Criminal legal aid is available for these proceedings, so it is important that you contact a criminal defence solicitor for legal advice if you receive a summons to a magistrates’ court.

What happens if I refuse to sign my licence conditions?

Whether or not you sign your licence, the licence remains lawful and enforceable. The governor and/or your supervising officer will sign the licence to confirm that the conditions have been read and explained to you. A copy is sent to you and further copies are sent to the police and kept on record at the prison.

Can I change my probation officer?

Probation officers are responsible for reviewing your background and updating any relevant information to the court. They are also responsible for making referrals to other agencies (e.g. social services), if needed to support your rehabilitation. Probation officers are expected to do all this in a professional manner while following proper ethical standards. If they do not, they may face fines or be placed on leave. Therefore the following reasons would represent valid grounds for changing your probation officer:

  • Harassment

Any sexual advances from probation officers toward probationers are considered inappropriate. This includes verbal and physical sexual advances and this is a valid reason to request a new probation officer. This would include any unprofessional, flirtatious behaviour. For example, it’s not appropriate for officers and probationers to exchange gifts or meet outside the office.

  • Confidentiality

A probation officer is expected to keep private and personal information, obtained from the probationer, confidential unless its disclosure is required by law. Sharing personal information with family, friends or staff is not allowed. If this is breached in any way, this could be a legitimate reason to change probation officers.

  • Discrimination

Probation officers are not allowed to discriminate against anyone because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, age or religion. Some of this is hard to prove, but if a probationer feels discriminated against he or she should mention it to the probation officer’s superior. In other instances, such as an officer making racial slurs, it’s obviously discrimination. If the probation officer is proven discriminatory against the probationer, it’s not fair or appropriate for the relationship to continue. There may legal repercussions against the agency. This is also considered valid grounds for changing probation officers.

  • Conflict of Interest

If the probation officer has a personal relationship with a relative, friend or a professional contact to the probationer, a conflict of interest would be created. Changing the probation officer would be in the best interest of both, because each could be accused of a conflict of interest and the probation officer could be fined and/or suspended. In the probationer’s case, he or she could be accused of bargaining with the officer if there was a mutual business interest. Anything positive that occurred between the officer and the probationer could be undone because of this conflict of interest.

I want to move to a new area. What is the process for applying for a probation transfer?

The process of how the Probation Service handles Case Transfers between probation areas is set out in Case Transfers for offenders subject to statutory supervision (which you can download here).

There are different provisions depending on at what stage of your sentence you have reached and whether or not, for example, you are a Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) offender. For the full details please refer to the probation instructions available via the link above.  However, there are a few basic points to bear in mind if you do want to apply for a probation transfer:

  • The request should at first be put in writing to your probation officer with a request for a response within a reasonable period of time (e.g. three weeks).
  • If you are moving probation area, both the sending and receiving probation area have to agree, and getting approval is not an automatic right. One difficulty is that a probation area doesn’t always have to take a referral. This is particularly likely to be the case where a person might need a lot of supervision and use a lot of resources.
  • Any transfer has to be consistent with the sentence plan and a probation officer may consider that someone needs to move area because of the risk to a victim or high profile media or public concerns. A MAPPA meeting might also decide that someone could be moved because any risk could be better managed elsewhere.
  • Make sure you have proof of your connection with the area you want to move to and try to speak to your outside probation officer as the process might be easier if your move is supported. Remember that transfers are not automatic, and can be turned down if the risk assessment is too high. However, you have the right to appeal if your request is turned down.

I feel that I am being treated unfairly by the probation officer. What can I do?

It is best to try to resolve your problem informally first of all. Try speaking with the person involved in your complaint and see if you resolve it. If you would prefer not to speak directly to the person involved, you could speak to their line manager.

If you cannot reach a solution this way, you can make a formal complaint. You should do this in writing and send it to the Chief Officer of the Probation Trust. You can find the details of your local Trust here.

You should hear back within five working days from the Chief Officer. You should be told what is going to happen with your complaint and when you can expect a full response.

If you are not happy with the full response, you can appeal it. You should write to the secretary of your local Probation Board and explain why you want to appeal. You should do this within 15 working days of getting the full response. You should get an acknowledgement of your appeal within five working days.

A panel will look at your appeal and may ask to meet you. You should get a response within 20 working days though the panel will let you know if they need longer.

If you are still not happy with the reply, you can contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) within one month of your appeal decision if you have:

  • Been under the supervision of the National Probation Service
  • Been housed in probation accommodation
  • Had a report prepared about you for use by a court

The PPO will respond to the complainant within 10 days, informing you of whether or not your complaint has been accepted. If a complaint is not accepted, an explanation as to why will be given. If a complaint is accepted, it will be allocated to an investigator who will contact the complainant directly.

The investigator will first consider if there is a way of resolving the complaint without a full investigation. If so, the investigator will contact the complainant and the Area Probation Board to try to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement is not possible, a full investigation will be started.

The PPO aims to deal with any complaint within 12 weeks of starting the investigation. If your complaint is not upheld, you will receive a letter with a detailed explanation of the findings of the investigation and the specific reasons why the PPO have not upheld the complaint.

If the complaint is upheld, the investigator will write to you, setting out the details, the findings and the conclusions. The PPO may also make certain recommendations to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought to help them ensure the problem does not occur again.

If the complaint warrants it, the PPO will write a full report. A draft copy of this report will be sent to you and to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought, to check that the details of the complaint are accurate. Once confirmed, a final copy of the report will be sent to both parties.