Please sign a petition for victims of indeterminate sentences

Last August I posted a piece here about the scandalous injustice of “indeterminate sentences for public protection” (IPPs): it’s at It prompted 37 comments, several of which starkly illustrate the human cost of this wicked system. One comment, by ‘Mary’, urged readers of this blog to sign a petition to the prime minister urging that a particular category of IPP prisoners who are especially unjustly victimised by the system should be released without more delay.

My blog post of last August is at
and Mary’s original comment on it, about her petition to 10 Downing Street, is at
(Please also glance through the other 35 comments).

Mary has now posted a further comment:

Thanks to S. Corker and any others who have signed. Only 8 days to go – can anyone else sign please?
It’s really easy – just click on the web site, open the email they send you and click where indicated.

Do please sign this absolutely uncontroversial humanitarian petition while there’s still time. As Mary says, it’s at

The petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to release all prisoners sentenced to an indeterminate public protection (IPP) order with a tariff of less than 2 years, and who would not since June 2008 have received one.

Submitted by Ms. Mary May – Deadline to sign up by: 29 October 2009 – Signatures: 225

More details from petition creator:

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 introduced a minimum tariff of two years for prisoners serving indeterminate public protection sentences. The government made an error with the interpretation of the law regarding IPPs and approx. 970 prisoners were given tariffs of less than 2 years. To demonstrate justice these people should be released if they have served their tariff which generally was the same length of time they would have served with a determinate sentence. The judges passing the IPP sentences did not consider the offenders to be so dangerous that they should be kept in prison for lengthy periods or they would have given tariffs of more than 2 years. This results in more than 970 prisoners being kept in prison after the end of their tariff with little hope of release.

Several readers of this blog have signed the petition, for which she and I are grateful. But inexplicably, most haven’t, yet.  It only takes a couple of minutes, if that.

The whole system of indeterminate sentences, a mealy-mouthed euphemism for preventive detention, is a black blot on our system of justice. But even if you aren’t convinced of that, you surely can’t justify keeping in prison the narrow category of people to whom the petition refers. Please sign up while there’s still time!


3 Responses

  1. Jo says:

    I have signed the petition, but most people who would be concerned are unaware of it, and it does need publicising to a wider audience – I’ve let as many people as possible know. I know of someone who is serving an IPP, his tariff was only a few months, and expired nearly 3 years ago. He has good reports and completed all his courses but the Parole Board, by setting unachievable goals, have made sure he will never be released. A close member of his family has suddenly died, which was brought on by the stress of realising this person will never be released from prison. There have been a number of suicides and ‘stress related’ deaths of IPP’s, usually following Parole Hearing, many had tariffs of under 2 years.
    Max Rutherford of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health is doing a talk on this damaging sentence in November and would be interested in anyone’s experiences of it. Also Lord Goodhart with the backing of many other peers has constantly tried to get this sentence changed but is always stopped by the Government.
    Like yourselves, I will not give up opposing this sentence at every opportunity.

  2. John O'Sullivan says:


    Please pardon my skepticism but is it known if there any benefit in sending petitions to No 10? Are there cases where it is known that such a petition has produced a definite result? If any of your readers (or yourself) might know of such an occasion I’ll be glad to be enlightened. My question arises because I have lost complete trust in what I label the Blair-Brown Junta. I find their totalitarianism quite frightening and I wonder if making the facility of online petitions available is simply their way of throwing a sop to the proles to keep them quiet. If there is clear evidence of tangible results I’ll be glad to sign.

    Thank you.

    Brian writes: I don’t know what kind of convincing evidence you are wanting. Where ministers take action in response to a public campaign, a petition on the No. 10 website is likely to be only one manifestation of public disquiet and demand for change. There’ll be no way of measuring the effectiveness of the petition as compared with letters to MPs and ministers, letters and articles in the newspapers, blog posts and comments, demonstrations and marches, and petitions handed in to parliament. I am fairly sure that these online petititons are passed on to the relevant government department and if they support action that’s already being considered, or even if they don’t, they may have some influence on policy decisions, especially if signed by a healthy number of people. I don’t see how signing this one, if you agree with it, can possibly do any harm, and every additional signature gives it more weight, and might do some good. But if you wait for evidence of effectiveness that can’t in the nature of things be forthcoming, you’ll miss the deadline for this one anyway. Just go ahead and sign, for goodness’ sake!

  3. John O'Sullivan says:


    Thank you for such a prompt response. Yes, I have now signed and hope somebody actually takes some notice of it. (By the way, please pardon the mis-spelling of ‘scepticism’ in my previous note.) Whilst a high-profile petition/protest like that of the Gurkhas and Joanna Lumley can publicly be seen to exist and awaiting a visible response, I have such a lack of trust in the present government that I tend to expect the relevant minister simply to chuck in the bin whatever doesn’t appeal to him/her.


    Brian writes: Thanks for this, John. I’m glad that you have signed, and share your hope that someone, somewhere, will take some notice of the petition.

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