Licence conditions and recall - indeterminate sentences

What does being on licence mean?

When you are released you may be ‘on licence’.


This means you have an allocated Offender Manager and conditions which you must follow until a certain date – otherwise you could be returned to prison.


Being on licence is sometimes called being ‘on probation’ or ‘under supervision’. Your Offender Manager is sometimes called your ‘probation officer’ or your ‘supervising officer’.

How long will I be on licence?

If you are serving a life sentence you will be on licence for life after you are released from custody.

If you are serving an IPP sentence, you will be on licence indefinitely after your release from custody. You can apply to the parole board to have your licence removed after ten years.

What are licence conditions?

Licence conditions are the rules which you must follow when you are on licence. If you do not follow these conditions you could be returned to prison. This is called recall.

Your licence conditions will be written on your licence document which you will be given when you are released. You will be asked to sign this to show you understand the conditions. In some cases, these conditions will have been discussed with you by your offender supervisor and/or offender manager in advance of your release.

There are standard licence conditions which apply to everyone. There are also additional licence conditions which your offender manager can add to your licence if they think they are needed.

Licence conditions are covered in detail by PSI 12/2015 Licence Conditions, Licences And Licence And Supervision Notices

Standard licence conditions

The following are standard licence conditions and will be on every licence.

During your licence period you must:


a)    be of good behaviour and not behave in a way which undermines the purpose of the licence period;


b)    not commit any offence;


c)    keep in touch with the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer;


d)    receive visits from the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer;


e)    reside permanently at an address approved by the supervising officer and obtain the prior permission of the supervising officer for any stay of one or more nights at a different address;


f)     not undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervising officer and notify the supervising officer in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work;


g)    not travel outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man except with the prior permission of your supervising officer or for the purposes of immigration deportation or removal.

Additional licence conditions

You may also have additional licence conditions if your offender manager thinks it is necessary and proportionate to do this.


If you were sentenced on or after 4 April 2005 to more than 12 months, the judge may have made recommendations for additional licence conditions to be included once you are released. These will be considered when deciding your licence.

Some victims have the right to have their views considered about what conditions they think you should be subject to, and to be told about relevant conditions which are included in your licence. There is more information about this in PSI 12/2015.

The following categories of licence condition could be added to your licence:

1)    residence at a specified place;

2)    restriction of residency;

3)    making or maintaining contact with a person;

4)    participation in, or co-operation with, a programme or set of activities;

5)    possession, ownership, control or inspection of specified items or documents;

6)    disclosure of information;

7)    curfew arrangement;

8)    freedom of movement;

9)    supervision in the community by the supervising officer, or other responsible officer, or organisation.


Within each category there are different types of licence condition which your offender manager could add to your licence. You can find these in Annex A of PSI 12/2015.


Your offender manager must make sure that a request for additional licence conditions is necessary and proportionate. PSI 12/2015 defines this criteria in the following way:

  • Necessary means that the condition is necessary to enable the supervising officer to manage the risks identified and no other less onerous condition will suffice. The condition must be needed to allow for effective management of the offender.
  • Proportionate means that any restriction or loss of liberty arising from the imposition of the condition is proportionate to the level of risk presented by the offender that no other less intrusive means of addressing the risk is available or appropriate. The condition cannot go further than is necessary to manage the risk.

Approved Premises

Your offender manager can include residing in Approved Premises as part of the residence conditions of your licence. They might do this if they think it will help to manage any risks when you return to the community.

Refusing to do stay at an Approved Premises would be considered a breach of your licence and you could be recalled to prison. You can find more information in our Approved Premises information sheet, and in PI 32/2014 Approved Premises.

Use of computers and mobile phones

Under additional condition 5) there are a number of restrictions which could be added to your use of devices such as mobile phones and computers.

For example, you may not be allowed to have more than one mobile phone, or any device with a camera function. You may be expected to make devices such as computers and phones available for inspection and told not to delete internet history information. You may be restricted from using any computer or device which is internet enabled without the prior agreement of your offender manager.

Exclusion zones

You may have an exclusion zone included in your licence. This means you cannot enter a specific area whilst on licence. This could be based on where previous victims live or locations that are linked to offending behaviour.

PSI 12/2015 states that ‘The purpose of an exclusion zone condition must be clear and necessary, and the size of the exclusion zone reasonable and proportionate.’

Electronic monitoring

Licence conditions involving Electronic Monitoring can only be used if you are being released on Home Detention Curfew or if your case is managed at MAPPA Level 3 including Critical Public Protection Cases (CPPC).


There is guidance to supervising officers that prohibiting consumption of alcohol can be hard to enforce, because it is difficult to argue that drinking a small amount should lead to recall. The law does not allow for an alcohol test to be a licence condition.

However, the condition to ‘be of good behaviour’ could be enough to justify recall if your behaviour or risk after consuming alcohol is unacceptable. You should also be aware that complying with alcohol testing could be a condition of an Approved Premises. Being evicted from an Approved Premises for consuming alcohol could result in being recalled to prison.

Restricted Additional Conditions

There are additional conditions which have different criteria than the ‘necessary and proportionate’ criteria above. These are described in the PSI as restricted additional conditions. These are:

·         Polygraph examinations – a condition can be to carry out these on certain sexual offenders released from prison to addresses in England and Wales. There is more information in PSI 36/2014 Polygraph Examinations.

·         Drug testing – this can only be used if you have a history of misusing illegal drugs and there is a reason to believe that this is linked to offending behaviour. There is more information in PSI 32/2014 Drug appointment and drug testing.

Conditions for Extremist/Terrorist Offenders

There are some additional licence conditions which can only be used for people who have been convicted under Terrorist Act legislation. There is more information about these conditions and their use in Annex B of PSI 12/2015.

Bespoke conditions

Your supervising officer may decide that the wording of the standard or additional licence conditions are not enough to manage a specific risk. They may make an application to the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) for a bespoke condition to be used.

Can I travel abroad whilst on licence?

Temporary travel abroad

The standard licence conditions mean that if you want to travel abroad for any reason including a seeing family, for business reasons, or for a holiday, you must get permission from your offender manager first.

You should be aware that it can be difficult to get permission to travel abroad, particularly in the early stages of your licence. Probation Instruction 09/2015 Licence Conditions and Temporary Travel Abroad says that ‘permission to travel overseas must only be granted in exceptional circumstances’.

Guidance advises that enough time must have passed for your Offender Manger to assess risk of reoffending and compliance in the community. This means that if you make a request for temporary travel abroad whilst you are still in prison the decision will be delayed until after you have been released

PSI 09/2015 says ‘enough time must have passed in order to assess the offender’s risk of reoffending and compliance with licence requirements in the community. Where an offender is still in custody and makes a temporary travel abroad request they must be advised that an assessment will be conducted once they are in the community and that a decision will be postponed until then.

Permanent resettlement abroad

If you would like to resettle outside of England and Wales whilst you are on licence you must make a request to you offender manager. It can be very difficult to get permission to do this and you do not have automatic right to do so.

If you are considering making a request there is more information in PSI 08/2015 Permanent Resettlement Outside England And Wales Of Offenders Subject to Post-release Supervision.

There is also a very helpful explanation on Unlock’s Information Hub titled Resettling abroad whilst on licence.

What can I do if I am unhappy with my licence conditions?

If you are unhappy with a licence condition you can:

  • Ask to speak with your offender manager about this

It may be helpful to explain to your offender manager why you are unhappy with the conditions and see if they will reconsider this.

  • Make a complaint about the licence condition

If you have spoken to your offender manager and still think your licence conditions are unnecessary or disproportionate, you can make a complaint. Your initial complaint should be made to the relevant probation service. Our information sheet about Probation Complaints has more information about how to do this.

If you are still unhappy after following the internal complaints process you can then ask the Prison and Probation Ombudsman to investigate it.

  • Get legal advice

It may be worth speaking to a solicitor to see if you can get any legal support challenging licence conditions. If you are in prison and need details of local solicitors, our Advice and Information Service can look for this information for you.

What happens if I do not follow my licence conditions?

If you do not follow your licence conditions you could be returned to prison. This is called being ‘recalled’.

Recall – Indeterminate sentences

What does being recalled mean?

Being recalled means you are returned to prison. This can happen if you do not follow your licence conditions.

Your Offender Manager will make a request to the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) if they think you need to be recalled. PPCS decide if you should be recalled. 

If the decision is made to recall you, your licence will be cancelled. This is known as having your licence ‘revoked’

The police will be informed, as well as your probation service and the prison you were released from. You will be arrested and returned to prison.

If you avoid being returned to prison it is called ‘remaining unlawfully at large’. This is an offence and you could get up to two more years prison sentence.

If you are recalled on an indeterminate licence you will be held indefinitely in custody. Your release can only be directed by the Parole Board.

Considerations for recall

The Recall, Review and Re-Release of Recalled Prisoners Policy Framework gives details about the things that should be considered when deciding whether to request recall of someone serving an indeterminate sentence:

 ‘Offender managers must demonstrate a “causal link” in the current behaviour that was exhibited at the time of the index offence. One of the following criteria must be met when assessing whether to request the recall of an indeterminate sentenced offender:

i. Exhibits behaviour similar to behaviour surrounding the circumstances of the index offence;

ii. Exhibits behaviour likely to give rise (or does give rise) to a sexual or violent offence;

iii. Exhibits behaviour associated with the commission of a sexual or violent offence; or

iv. Is out of touch with the offender manager and the assumption can be made that any of (i) to (iii) may arise.’

As well as meeting at least one of the above criteria, offender managers ‘must ensure that there is evidence of increased risk of harm to the public’.

The decision to recall must be based on your behaviour whilst on licence.

If there is an allegation of further offending, your offender manager can request recall based on your reported behaviour even if you have not been charged or if a police investigation is still taking place.

The Policy Framework also says:

‘The test for recall does not require the criminal standard of evidence, and it is instead based on the offender manager’s professional judgement as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, the reported behaviour has taken place.’

What happens after I am recalled?

The prison should tell the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) that you have returned to custody immediately.

You should be told the reasons for being recalled. This information is in paperwork called your 'recall dossier'.

Your recall dossier is given to the prison by PPCS, This should happen within one working day of PPCS being told that you have been returned to custody.

The prison should then give you a copy. This should happen within one working day if the prison receiving the recall dossier from PPCS.

Re-release after recall

If you have been recalled on an indeterminate sentence your re-release can only be directed by the Parole Board.

The process is similar to Generic Parole Process for indeterminate prisoners, but over a shorter period of time.

It is important to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible to get help with this. You should be given a list of legal aid lawyers. You should also be given the opportunity to make a legal telephone call within two working days of receiving the recall dossier.

The first stage of the review is a Member Case Assessment. This is when one Parole Board member reads your dossier to see if there is enough information to make a decision. This is sometimes called making a decision ‘on the papers’.

You will receive a written letter about what decision has been made at this stage.

If you are given a negative decision, you have 28 days from the date of the decision to ask for an oral hearing. You or your solicitor can do this by writing to the Parole Board. If you do not ask for an oral hearing within 28 days, the decision becomes final and you will stay in prison until you are eligible for a further parole review.

If the Parole Board does not direct release, the Public Protection Casework Section will confirm the date of your next review. This must be within two years but could be sooner.

There is more information about Parole Reviews in our information sheet The Parole Boards and Parole Reviews and in Generic Parole Process Policy Framework.

Further information

Useful PSIs and PSOs (these should be available in the library):

PSI 32/2014 Drug appointment and drug testing for licence conditions and post-sentence supervision requirements

PSI 36/2014 Polygraph Examinations

PSI 03/2015 Sentence Calculation

PSI 08/2015 Permanent Resettlement Outside England And Wales Of Offenders Subject to Post Release Supervision

PI 09/2015 Licence Conditions and Temporary Travel Abroad

PSI 12/2015 Licence Conditions, Licences And Licence And Supervision Notices

Generic Parole Process Policy Framework

Recall, Review and Re-Release of Recalled Prisoners Policy Framework

For a print-ready version of this information, click here.