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Compassionate Release Process

Section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 gives the Scottish Ministers the power to release prisoners on licence on compassionate grounds. This process is akin to the system of medical parole that exists in many other jurisdictions.

The Act requires that Ministers are satisfied that there are compassionate grounds justifying the release of a person serving a sentence of imprisonment. Although the Act does not specify what the grounds for compassionate release are, generally it encompasses:

  • those suffering from a terminal illness and death is likely to occur soon. There are no fixed time limits but life expectancy of less than three months may be considered an appropriate period;
  • where the prisoner is severely incapacitated; or
  • where continued imprisonment would, in light of the conditions in which the prisoner is being held, endanger or shorten his or her life expectancy.

Application from Mr Al-Megrahi

An application from Mr Al-Megrahi requesting compassionate release was received by the Scottish Ministers on 24 July.

In accordance with normal procedure, the application was forwarded to the Scottish Prison Service, where the Prison Governor, Social Work, and medical staff provide advice on the application. Each report supported that Mr Al-Megrahi was suitable for compassionate release.

The Act requires that the Parole Board is also consulted. The Parole Board advised that Mr Al-Megrahi was suitable for compassionate release.

If compassionate release is granted, the prisoner is released on licence. The licence sets out a range of conditions, including conditions on residence.


Mr Al-Megrahi's Compassionate Release Application

Medical Report - Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi

Advice to Justice Secretary

Supporting documentation

Release Licence - Mr Al-Megrahi