Former justice minister Jeremy Wright has apologised to the family of murdered Trowbridge woman Hayley Richards for the “distress” caused, after her killer was deported without their knowledge – and pledged it will not happen to other grieving relatives in future.

South West Wiltshire MP Andrew Murrison wrote to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Justice in May on behalf of the family, after the dead woman’s brother Paul asked him for help.

Mr Richards wanted to know why his family was not warned that killer Hugo Quintas, who murdered his sister and her unborn child, was to be deported from Wandsworth Prison back to his native Portugal.

He was only told by the Wiltshire Probation Trust a day after Quintas was deported and, while Quintas will not be permitted to return to the UK, his release will now be managed under Portuguese law.

Mr Wright, who is now Attorney General, said: “I recognise your constituents will have been disappointed about not being involved in the decision relating to the transfer of Mr Quintas.

“However, it has not been our normal practice to involve victims or their family in this process. The family should, however, have been informed of the decision once it had been made and before the prisoner had been transferred.

“This clearly did not happen in this case and I apologise for the distress this will have caused. We are reviewing our procedures to ensure that a similar situation does not arise in future.”

The letter also adds that Portuguese courts have decided that the appropriate sentence for Quintas available under Portuguese law would be 17 years and six months, as it does not provide for sentences of life imprisonment.

However, Quintas, who was jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years for murdering his 23-year-old pregnant girlfriend in June 2005, could serve two-thirds of this before being considered for release.

Mr Richards said: “I’m glad they have apologised but there is still no guarantee that he will serve his full sentence as it talks about him being considered for release after doing two-thirds.

“He should serve that full sentence even in Portugal. It bothers me that he could be released after two-thirds and be a free man, which is not right as he took two lives that day, not just one.

“The system has not been up to scratch all the way through in our case and Hayley may not even get the justice she deserves. He will still be a young man, free to do what he wants when he is released. How can that be right?”

The letter confirms that Mr Wright has instructed officials to ensure victims or their families are notified when a prisoner has either applied for transfer or being considered for compulsory transfer.