By JACOB POK
FIFTEEN prisoners at Lakiemata jail, West New Britain, had applied to the National Court recently for early release from jail on various grounds but only two succeeded.
Some of their reasons were that they had served one-third of their sentence or paid compensation to the victim or the victim no longer wanted them imprisoned.
However, National Court judge Justice David Cannings noted that there were misconceptions that had developed over the years about prisoners believing that once they have served one-third of their sentence, they could apply for early release or could have their sentence reconsidered by the National Court if they could show a change in circumstances.
“Prisoners are not generally well informed of their rights, privileges and responsibilities,” Justice Cannings said while presiding over the matter.
“I published a judgement last year that explained this area of the law in detailed but still there is a lot of confusion and ignorance,” he said.
He said early release of prisoners or the due date of release was calculated after taking account of the remission of one-third of the sentence that most prisoners were entitled to under section 120(1) (remission to be granted) of the Correctional Service Act, which authorises the commissioner of Correctional Service to grant to a detainee remission equal to one-third of the period of sentence.
He said early released could also be granted in various ways, such as by a court order; by the parole board, by the Governor-General, who acts according to the advice of the National Executive Council after considering a report from the advisory committee on the power of mercy or by the Minister for Justice who might grant a prisoner a license to be at large under section 615 of the Criminal Code.
He pointed out that the critical point that all prisoners should understand was that the National Court has no general power to order early release of any prisoner.
He said the court could only order early release if the order under which the prisoner was sentenced expressly allows for it.
Therefore, out of the 15 prisoners, Justice Cannings granted the release of two while the 13 others where refused.
Of those refused, eight were considered eligible for parole and the court advised the parole board to report to the court on the status of its consideration for parole of the prisoners.