The government had been warned that the killer bug could cause deaths ‘on an unprecedented scale’

Up to 4,000 prisoners are set to be released from prison in an effort to stop coronavirus spreading.

The UK government said those freed would be “risk-assessed” and within two months their release date.

The Mirror reports the move was announced on Saturday (April 4) by Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, who has come under increasing pressure to act amid fears the killer bug is spreading.

Mr Buckland said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law.”

The government had been warned that the killer bug could cause deaths “on an unprecedented scale”, the report added.
Buckland warned: “This is an unprecedented situation because if Coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.
Two prisoners have died at HMP Littlehey after being infected with coronavirus -Image: PA

“All prisoners will face a tough risk assessment and must comply with strict conditions, including an electronic tag, while they are closely monitored. Those that do not will be recalled to prison.”

The report stated that “no high-risk criminals – such as those who have been convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone who is a national security concern or a danger to children – will be considered for release”.

“Prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term will also not be among those who are released.

“The MoJ also said no offender convicted of COVID-19-related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible.

“Similar steps have been taken in the US, Ireland and the Netherlands.

“Three prisoners, including two at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire, have died after contracting COVID-19.

“Campaigners had called for prisoners to be released early amid the coronavirus outbreak, warning that failure to act could lead to deaths on an ‘unprecedented scale’.”

It said: “Decisive further action to release a substantial number of prisoners in England and Wales is required now in order to prevent loss of life on an unprecedented scale.

“We also urge you to take urgent steps to encourage a significant reduction in the number of people sent to prison, including recalls and remands to custody, as well as the imposition of custodial sentences at this time.”