An ECS is a public protection sentence which can be imposed when an offender has committed certain violent or sexual offences listed in schedule 2 of the Order, on or after 15th May 2008, and the court believes that they are likely to commit further similar offences in the future.
The sentence involves a portion of time spent in custody (at least 1 year) and a period of time under licence conditions (extension period). The judge will set a period of custody appropriate for the offence and will then add to this a further period in which the offender will be supervised on licence in the community after they have been released.
ECS prisoners will be referred to the PCNI approximately 6 months prior to the mid point of their sentence and must demonstrate that they can be safely released into the community under Article 18. If PCNI direct release, the prisoner will remain on licence for the remainder of the custodial term as well as the licence period set by the court.
Where the decision is not to direct release, the case must be referred back to PCNI within 2 years, if an earlier date has not been recommended. However, the Department of Justice is obliged to release the prisoner when the custodial part of the sentence has expired and the prisoner will be subject to standard licence conditions as well as bespoke conditions, if required, prescribed by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice will consult the PCNI in regard to the bespoke conditions before release.
The licence period can be up to 5 years in respect of violent offences and 8 years for sexual offences. During the licence period, conditions of a licence can be added, varied or cancelled in consultation with the PCNI. An offender is liable for recall to custody if they breach their conditions and may have to serve the rest of their sentence in custody.