The Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, said:
“The question of limited prisoner release has always been on the table as a measure to help fight COVID-19.
“As the Ulster Unionist Justice spokesperson I have been kept informed of the evolving situation through the Justice Minister, at the Justice Committee, and on the floor of the Assembly. I have also had discussions with the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service in respect to the challenges they face and I am satisfied they have acted as they have, in full knowledge of the vital importance of protecting the safety of the general public, which is paramount.
“The Statement from the Justice Minister outlining the procedure for limited prisoner release of fewer than 200 prisoners is detailed and contains safeguards for members of the public. Of course some questions will arise, not least how you enforce an alcohol ban when the individual is confined to their home, and how will they play catch up with the benefits system in such a short period of time.
“These are issues to be answered when the time comes, but for now the Justice Minister has the support of the Ulster Unionist Party in taking this action. We are clear and mindful that this decision was not taken lightly or in isolation but in order to protect prisoners, prison staff and aid in the fight against COVID-19.”