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Yesterday, May Day 2012, was a very special day for a little noticed reason. On 1 May 2012 an Act of Parliament abolished the infamous system of IPPs (Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection). This régime, the brainchild of Labour’s David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary, has kept – and still keeps – literally thousands of men and women in prison cells long after they have served the portion of their sentences deemed by the judges to be sufficient for their punishment. They remain incarcerated indefinitely. The only way they can regain their freedom is by satisfying a risk-averse parole board that something has happened to them while in prison which demonstrates that they will not reoffend if and when they are released. Predictably, this requirement to prove a future negative has set IPP prisoners an almost impossible task, and only a tiny percentage (around 4%) of IPP prisoners have ever been released, even though in many cases their original offences have been relatively minor – as their often short minimum sentences have shown.

The Act of Parliament which has at long last swept away future IPPs, the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, or “LASPO”, deals with a wide range of topics in addition to the abolition of IPPs. Many of its provisions are controversial, and some are certainly objectionable. It seems clear that some of the more draconian provisions of the Act have been included as the price that Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, and the government’s house liberal, has been forced to pay for the abolition of IPPs, a measure that goes against the grain of much Tory backbench opinion and the reactionary policies of the feral tabloids. The Labour frontbench, much to its discredit, has dismally failed to give even lukewarm support to Clarke’s efforts to rid us of IPPs: indeed, there have been moments when shadow ministers have come close to opposing abolition, whether from fear of the tabloids or because of pressure on them from the succession of illiberal Labour home secretaries responsible not only for IPPs but also for numerous other indefensible laws on crime and punishment and under cover of the so-called war on terror. So the abolition of IPPs owes nothing whatever to the Labour opposition in Parliament or to the massed ranks of retired colonels on the Tory back-benches.

However, it’s too soon to say ‘Mission Accomplished’. Thankfully, no more IPP sentences can now be passed. But all those handed down before 1 May 2012 remain in force, and those thousands of prisoners who have paid their debt to society, but still see no hope of ever being released, still face the same impossible requirements for regaining their freedom as if LASPO had not been passed into law. The gleam of hope for them lies in the power given by LASPO to the Justice Secretary to set new criteria to be used by the parole boards in deciding whether an IPP prisoner can safely be released. It’s clear from earlier Justice Ministry documents that the intention will be to remove the onus for demonstrating that the prisoner will not reoffend from the prisoner, requiring instead that the parole boards must order the prisoner’s release unless there are solid and specific grounds for believing that he will reoffend if released. This change can’t happen too soon if a huge weight of fear and uncertainty is to be lifted, not only from the prisoners concerned, but also from their families and other loved ones. Now is the moment, not only to liberalise the criteria for releasing IPP prisoners, but also greatly to accelerate the processing of all those who have served their minimum sentences (‘tariffs’) but who still languish in jail under what can only be described as preventive detention.

Ken Clarke and his Justice Ministry deserve congratulations and thanks for steadfastly sticking to their guns and getting this significant reform through Parliament and onto the statute book, in the face of widespread timorous doubts and much outright hostility, some of it from powerful quarters. They need no reminding that the task is not completed until the last post-tariff IPP prisoner walks through the prison gates to freedom.

As a postscript, this blog is glad to have played a part, however small, in the campaign for the abolition of IPPs, including the provision of a space on the Web in which literally hundreds of relatives of IPP prisoners have been able to appeal for advice and support, as well as expressing their anguish and fear at the appalling uncertainty facing them and their loved ones, never able to be sure that the person concerned will ever be released. Many have written in comments on blog posts here about the disgraceful games of cat and mouse played with IPP prisoners by parole boards and the prison authorities in the effort to postpone indefinitely a decision on whether a prisoner has demonstrated that he will not reoffend if released. This cruel behaviour by an effectively unaccountable authority should now be ended by an entirely new regime, to be installed by the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that the great majority of IPP prisoners are systematically, but rapidly, processed and released without further delay.

Historians of penal reform by a right-of-centre government, sulkily opposed by a supposedly left-of-centre opposition, may care to read through some of the posts on this blog over the past several years, including especially the hundreds of comments appended to them by others: http://www.barder.com/3419, /3372, /3355, /3350, /3331, /3326,   http://www.barder.com/politics/liberty/ipps-extracts-from-parliamentary-papers-october-2011, and many, many more.

So: three cheers for May Day, 2012 and the end of IPPs.  By all means open the bubbly!  But tomorrow there’s more work to be done before those infamous IPPs can be said to have been consigned to where they belong: the dustbin of history.

Brian

 

42 comments on Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPPs) are abolished, but there’s more to do

  • allyce swift says:

    as ever you are spot on in your blogg, and a big thank you 

    Brian writes: Thanks for this, Allyce. At least it’s a start.

  • Pete Kercher says:

    I think congratulations are in order, Brian: well done!

    Brian writes: Thanks for this, Pete. I hope that every little has helped. More still remains to be done, but abolition should remove a huge obstacle to improving the system for those already serving IPPs.

  • Helen says:

    Yes, thanks to Ken Clarke and the Ministry of Justice for ensuring this long-awaited reform of the IPP sentence reaches the statute book.  Thank you particularly to Brian and his Blog for ensuring the campaign to scrap IPPs remained in the public arena.  It is disappointing however that the other draconian provisions in the Act have been put in to ‘make up’ for scrapping the IPP, when anyone with an iota of commonsense should have been able to see clearly how perverse and inhumane the sentence was.
    Meanwhile, as family member of an IPP prisoner now 3 and a half years past his 18 months’ tariff, we shall not yet be celebrating.  However, I personally am so relieved that people will not in future have to go through what we, and thousands of others, are still enduring.   

    Brian writes: Thank you, Helen. I agree that it’s a huge pity that such a price has had to be paid for such a simple act of justice as abolishing this vicious system. And it can’t be said too often that justice still remains to be done to the thousands of post-tariff IPPs still suffering under it. But I’m sure that abolition will make a big psychological difference, clearing the way to changing the rules so that IPPs can get their parole board hearings more quickly and with fewer pre-conditions, and with a much improved chance of success. However, there will never be an absolute guarantee that every IPP will now be released, and there certainly won’t be any automaticity about it. Those with records as serial offenders will still have a hard job showing that they have changed their ways, whatever the changes that should soon be made to the criteria that parole boards will have to adopt.

  • shirley mccarthy says:

    Well Done Brian,my son was given an ipp senntence 4 months ago.with 4 and half tariff, we  are all devastated,but am glad other famiilies will not have to go through this nightmare sentence,and i hope this helps my  son get released when he has completed his tariff.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Shirley. I’m reasonably confident that IPPs will now be processed sooner than hitherto once they complete their tariffs, and that once the criteria have been changed, many more of them will be fairly quickly released. But I’m afraid all these things take time and much patience will still be needed, difficult though it will be.

  • Bob says:

    Great news, and congratulations to you, Brian, for maintaining what must be the country’s longest-running and most persuasive campaign against the IPP sentence, described by Lord Ramsbotham as ‘an obscenity and stain on our reputation for civilised behaviour’ ( 2nd reading of LASPO, House of Lords, Novemver 21st 2011.)
    More later. But for now, well done!

    Brian writes: Thanks, Bob — and special thanks for your own many well-informed and eloquent contributions here and elsewhere to the campaign. These have added an enormous amount of weight to the arguments. Now on to action for the existing IPPs….
    And PS: Homage also to Lorna Elliot, another doughty campaigner who has made a splendid contribution with her legal expertise in support of the cause as well as her individual case-work for IPPs.

  • Sue A says:

    Yes well done Brian and lorna, hopefully when my son gets his parole hearing in June he will be released, after receiving a 21 month tarrif in 2005 !!!! Fingers crossed. Just so happy no other families have to go through this torment.
    Thanks Brian for all your updates with these blogs knowing other families are going through this has given our family huge support knowing we are not alone because before I found these blogs we really did feel like we were alone in this.
    Brian writes: Thank you, Sue. Good luck with your son’s pb hearing in June. The fact that IPPs have now not only been condemned as unjust but also actually abolished by the government and parliament might produce a more positive attitude in the parole boards. I’m very glad that this blog has helped IPPs’ families to share their experiences, fears and hopes, and also sometimes to provide some of them with advice and support from those with specialised knowledge of the system and the law.

  • wendi says:

    Thank you Brian for your blog and the support you have given over the past few years . Wish there more like you hun x

    Brian writes: Thank you very much, Wendi. Don’t worry: there are lots and lots of people like me, most of whom have done far more than me to help get this wicked IPP system abolished. You and all those who have contributed moving and informative comments on IPPs to this blog over the years can all be proud of what you have done to help secure their abolition — although the main credit belongs to Ken Clarke, who has shown real political courage in facing down fierce opposition within his own party and even within the government, and finally succeeded in getting the job done. I’m sure he will be equally determined to reform the system now to resolve the acute problem of existing post-tariff IPPs — please see my own comment in reply to Mary, at http://www.barder.com/3610/comment-page-1#comment-138616.

  • Mary says:

    Thanks Brian – you have continued to do a brilliant job – and many people have much to thank you for – and of course thanks to all the other supporters.

    Brian – can you tell me if the new legislation means no-one can now get an IPP – even those that have committed offences during the life of the IPP – ie from 2003 to date?   I have heard of people committing offences prior to 2003 not getting an IPP so does that mean if one committed an offence between 2003 and now it is possible to still get an IPP?

    I really hope that the present people with an IPP are treated in a humane and decent manner – especially those that got sentenced before the change in the law in 2008 – it is so barbaric that some people with really short tariffs and still in prison some 5/6 years later.

    Is there anything else we can do at the moment?

    Thanks again – very best wishes.   

    Brian writes: Thank you very much for these generous comments, Mary.
    I am putting my responses to your two questions in a new, separate comment.
        

  • Brian says:

    Mary has asked in her comment whether offences committed before 1 May can still receive IPP sentences, and what can be done now to help existing IPP prisoners.  As to what we can do now:  the need is of course to shift the focus to existing IPP prisoners who have served their tariffs.  Anything anyone can do to draw public attention to their plight is worth doing: write to your local newspaper or to the Guardian or the Independent or to your MP to point out that the abolition of IPPs in itself does nothing to help those trapped in the Catch 22 nightmare that is an IPP;  press for Ken Clarke and the Ministry of Justice urgently to reform the parole board rules for assessing the fitness of post-tariff IPPs to be released; and ask what the Ministry of Justice is doing to speed up access by post-tariff IPPs to the parole boards by (for example) abolishing some of the time-wasting pre-conditions being set by the prison authorities and the parole boards for a parole board hearing.  You could mention that only 4 to 5% of IPPs have ever been released even though thousands of those still in prison years after serving their tariffs clearly present little or no danger of reoffending, any more than those given ordinary fixed sentences for identical offences but who are automatically released, usually half-way through their nominal sentences.  There’s also the point that the prisons are grossly over-crowded and that releasing the vast majority of post-tariff IPPs as soon as they can be properly assessed would save a lot of public money which is now being wasted on keeping IPPs in prison unnecessarily as well as unjustly.

    As well as writing on these lines to a newspaper and your MP, you could write about the problem and the need for action on Facebook and Twitter.

    It would probably be counter-productive to try to get all that into a single letter or tweet but you could pick out a few main points.  If writing to your MP, ask him or her to find out from the Justice Secretary (Ken Clarke) what he is doing about all these things.

    I think that might be enough to be getting on with!

    I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t read every word of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which received the Royal Assent on 1 May, thus becoming law.  My impression is certainly that from 1 May, IPPs may no longer be passed on offenders, regardless of the dates of their offences.  But perhaps a lawyer could confirm that for us?  Has the Act taken effect immediately or does the government still have to set a date on which it will come into effect?

     

  • ObiterJ says:

    I could not agree more and well done for highlighting this subject.  The whole situation was a disgrace to our law.  My blogposts on this – which referenced your earlier posts – were at:
    http://obiterj.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/indeterminate-imprisonment-for-public.html
    http://obiterj.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/indeterminate-sentences-for-public.html
    For anyone who wishes to know more about LASPO, I have done a series of posts on my blog covering all the aspects of this far-reaching Act.

    Brian writes: Thank you very much for this and for your most informative and illuminating blog posts about IPPs and many other matters relating to legal issues. I especially urge anyone interested in the new LASPO Act to read your invaluable commentaries on it, easily identified on your admirable blog. 

  • ObiterJ says:

    Interestingly Brian, there might be a fly in the ointment.  LASPO 2012 s128 is the power of the Secretary of State to make Orders dealing with prisoner release.  However, such orders have to be approved by each House of  Parliament using the affirmative resolution procedure.  There could be opportunity here for those who like IPP to resist change.  Time will tell.

    Brian writes: Thank you again. We must just hope that there would be insufficient numbers of cave-dwellers in either House objecting to sensible, liberal reform of the criteria to be used by parole boards in determining whether to approve the release of IPP prisoners to defeat the relevant Order or Orders of the Justice Secretary when they are laid before parliament. The wording suggested in earlier MoJ documents suggests that the new guidelines will be eminently sensible and reasonable, with agreement to release becoming the default decision unless there are specific grounds for refusing it.

  • David says:

    I note the announcement of abolition of IPP’s.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I do think it is correct that people should not be held in prison any longer than they have to be.  However some people are so dangerous that the public does need to be protected from them.  It appears to be that this campaign has focused on the needs of the criminal rather than the needs of the victim.  I note that Shane Jenkins was today sentenced to an IPP for a horrific attack which blinded a woman called Tina Nash.  I wonder what Brian’s views on what sentence would be appropriate for Shane Jenkin if not an IPP and what Brian would have to say the victim’s of the criminals who were sentenced to IPP’s including Tina Nash?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-18028722

    Brian writes: Thank you. Shane Jenkin was not given an IPP sentence: he got a life sentence with a minimum of six years. That seems to me entirely appropriate, although not having attended the trial and heard the evidence, I’m unable to judge the appropriateness of the six-year minimum — as I assume you are too. The interests of victims of crime are not served by an inherently unjust system of punishing offenders: keeping people in prison after they have served the punishment element of their sentences just in case they might reoffend when released is risk-aversion gone mad, and in theory would justify never releasing anyone from prison apart from a tiny proportion of those given custodial sentences (around 4% of IPPs). If there is concrete evidence that a serial re-offender is virtually certain to be a serious risk to others or himself (or herself) if released, and if the offence in question was sufficiently serious to merit a life sentence, that sentence seems obviously appropriate, with a minimum period set after which release on licence becomes a possibility subject to a fresh professional risk assessment at regular intervals.

  • David says:

    Thank you for your response.  The article originally said that he was given an IPP not a life sentence.  I believe that your response is sensible save for one provision.  I would suggest that if the crime is serious enough then it would not have to be a serial re-offender to justify a life sentence.  I would suggest that someone who deliberately gouged out the eyes of another person, or another recent example deliberately disfigured them with acid would justify a life sentence whther or not they are a serial offender, however I note that this setencing option still remains as the maximum penalty for GBH with intent remains life.  I do agree that the IPP was vastly overused, for example I have heard of cases when people who were convicted of ABH were given IPP’s and that to me seems to be wrong.  That is what I meant when I had mixed feeling about the abolition of the IPP, I agree is should be abolished for the vast majority of offences but some sort of protection needs to remain for the public.  But having thought about it I guess the life sentence can and does provides the public protection in cases of GBH with intent like Shane Jenkins.  Having thought about it some morethen today I would say that If it was my decision I to would have voted to abolish the IPP.  

    I would suggest that all the IPP prisoners who have been convicted of offences which do not carry life imprisonment should be released if they have served their tariff.  All IPP prisoners who have been convicted of offences which could carry life imprisonment (like GBH with intent) whould be resentenced.  Taking into account the time they have already served.   

    Brian writes: Thank you again. I would just observe that life sentences and IPPs, before IPPs were abolished on 1 May, were alternatives, not able to be combined. Life sentences may only be imposed for the most serious offences, whereas IPPs were being used for offences covering a wide range of degrees of seriousness. Life sentences are mandatory for murder and now for a handful of other almost equally serious offences. It follows that there were no IPP prisoners given their IPPs for murder.

  • Helen says:

    Already there has been a Prison Service Instruction issued, – PSI 18/2012 – as a result of LASPO.  This is in relation to the removal of prisoners from the UK who are foreign nationals, and whose minimum tariff has expired.  They are to be released to the Boarder Agency, and sent back to their countries of origin, WHETHER OR NOT THE PAROLE BOARD HAS DIRECTED THEIR RELEASE.  Brian, would you say this was discrimination against UK IPP post-tariff prisoners?

    Brian writes: Thank you, Helen. No, I don’t think this could be called discrimination against UK IPPs. There’s a long-standing right of governments in international law to remove foreign nationals by executive action, although there’s a right of appeal to an immigration tribunal or SIAC against deportation. But since the law allows the home secretary to deport aliens who have been convicted and given prison sentences, there is probably no ground for appeal. For some non-British IPP prisoners summary deportation may be an even harsher punishment than continued imprisonment, especially for those who have lived in the UK for years, perhaps marrying a British spouse and having children who are UK nationals.
    There’s also likely to be a problem with some non-UK IPP prisoners of being unable to discover which country they have come from; and another problem (which probably will give grounds for an appeal) about deporting a person to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured or persecuted. Others of course may be very glad to be released forthwith and sent home.

  • ObiterJ says:

    Interesting comment from Helen.

    I think that Helen is referring to LASPO Section 119 (Removal of Prisoners from UK).  This is rather a different situation to IPP.

    Section 119 actually amends the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 by way of inserting new sections.  The amendment enables the Secretary of State to remove certain “lifers” who have been sentenced to serve a minimum term of imprisonment AND who are liable to removal from the UK under powers in either the Immigration Act 1971 or the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

    It actually seems a little odd that the Parole Board will have no role to play in relation to this category whereas another type of prisoner would be subject to the Parole Board and might therefore have to serve much more than the minimum term.

    At first sight, I doubt this amounts to discrimination in the application of any “Convention rights” since Art 14 of the European Conv. on HR refers to discrimination on grounds such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
    Further, under the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.
    Clearly, by enacting section 119, the government is anxious to be rid of this category of prisoner but, as Brian says, I suspect that legal challenges will arise depending on just where the government seeks to send the individual.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this useful analysis. There’s a certain brutal logic about the proposition that there’s no reason for the UK taxpayer to spend money on keeping foreigners in our prisons when they have broken our laws and when the law permits us to deport them to their countries of origin, but in certain circumstances deportation may represent very harsh treatment. I suppose that an IPP (or other) non-British prisoner ordered to be deported might have grounds for appeal under the Human Rights Act (right to family life) if he or she has a family entitled to live in Britain and with no connections to the prisoner’s country of origin, even if there is no likelihood of torture or persecution if the person is sent back there.

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  • Helen says:

    Thankyou Brian, and Orbiter J for your comments. I think it is really a matter of principle that UK IPPs are still subject to Parole decisions, when foreign nationals are not, in spite of it being a convnenient way of reducing the cost burdon on UK citizens.  In Amanda Goodall’s excellent website, http://www.ippprisonerscampaign.com, there is a recent posting on behalf of a UK citizen with an IPP, where he says that, within his prison, foreign nationals are actually bragging that they are going to be released, but will be back in the UK in a week or 2 later, (presumably to live under the ‘radar’), whilst he will still be in prison.  Surely this cannot be fair?

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Helen. I don’t have anything to add to my earlier comments on this issue. What is ‘fair’ in one situation may be deeply unfair in another. Deporting an IPP prisoner who happens to be non-British and who has family, a job waiting for him, and other roots in the UK may be much more unfair than letting him stay in prison awaiting unconditional release when the criteria and procedures for releasing IPPs have been liberalised and speeded up, as I am confident they will be. Foreign prisoners (IPP and other) who are deported at the end of their sentences or earlier may find it harder than they expect to get back into the UK later now that there is much more rigorous scrutiny of non-British people entering the country, or trying to. Anyway, in immigration and deportation matters, discrimination between UK citizens and aliens is both inevitable and permissible, and it’s no good complaining about it. In general it seems clear that deportation will be much harsher than awaiting release when the criteria and procedures have been reformed.

  • Veronica says:

    My son was sentenced to an IPP with a nine year tariff at the end of January 2012. He has just told me that the IPPs have been abolished but like many other people who have posted their comments it won’t affect those who were sentenced prior to 1st May 2012.

    I didn’t know of the existence of the campaign or this blog but I would very much like to be part of the campaign to change the conditions prisoners are currently required to meet by the ‘risk averse’ parole board. How do I join? What can I do?

    Veronica

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Veronica. I am posting my response and comments as a new Comment (below).

  • Brian says:

    Veronica, thank you for your comment of 17 May (here).  As regards what you can do to encourage improvements in the procedures for IPP prisoners to apply for release at the end of their tariffs and in the criteria to be adopted by parole boards in deciding whether an IPP prisoner may safely be released, please read my blog post above, at http://www.barder.com/3610 (especially the second half of it). I don’t think a ‘campaign’ on these issues is either appropriate or even necessary at this stage.  The Justice Secretay and the Ministry of Justice have shown that they are enlightened and progressive on IPPs by actually daring to abolish them in the face of tough high-level opposition.  We know that they are now concerned to make the parole boards’ criteria for deciding on release of post-tariff IPPs more reasonable and to speed up the processing of applications by post-tariff IPPs for release.  It’s right to encourage them in this, in all the ways suggested in my post above, while recognising that they are doing what we all want, so they need encouragement, not demands and noisy protests. 

    However, in the case of your son, I doubt very much whether he will be eligible to be assessed for possible release until he has completed his 9-year tariff, whatever changes may be made in the procedures and criteria in the meantime.  Of course he should keep himself up-to-date with news of changes in the system that may eventually affect him — for example better definition of rehabilitation courses that he can apply to take to demonstrate that he is becoming less likely to reoffend if he is eventually released.  He might also seek the advice of the authorities in his prison, including its IMB Monitors, on what he can usefully do during the period of his tariff to maximise his chances of being assessed at the end of his tariff as safe to be released, under whatever criteria may be in force in nine years’ time. 

    Some people were hoping that the abolition of IPPs would be made retrospective and that all existing IPPs would be turned into ordinary determinate sentences.  If this had happened (which of course it didn’t) your son’s 9-year tariff would probably have been changed into an 18-year determinate sentence and he would have qualified for conditional release on licence after nine years but subject to being recalled to prison at any time for the next nine years for the slightest offence or breach of his conditions.  As it is, and depending on the nature of his offence and whether he’s a repeat offender (I’m not asking for this information of course), he probably stands a good chance as an IPP prisoner of being unconditionally released very soon after he has served his tariff.  You might think that this is marginally better from his point of view than conditional release half-way through an 18-year sentence.  Be careful what you wish for!

    I’m sorry not to be able to offer more optimistic advice, but I’m not a lawyer. A lawyer reading this might be able to offer you more hope.  But a 9-year tariff indicates a severe sentence for a serious offence, equivalent to an 18-year determinate sentence, so it must be unlikely that he’ll even be considered for release for a considerable time, whatever changes may be made in the system in the meantime.

  • Barrie says:

    Dear Brian,

    Thank you for all the information you have provided within this web page. Your publication at the top of this page says:

    It’s clear from earlier Justice Ministry documents that the intention will be to remove the onus for demonstrating that the prisoner will not reoffend from the prisoner

    Can you please advise me what MOJ document says this and is it available in the public domain?

    My son who is more than a year over his 3 and a half year tarriff is of the opinion that absolutely nothing has changed and believes he will be at least 3 years over tarriff before being considered for release. On his last parole hearing in Aug 2011 he was advised his next hearing would not be until Aug 2013 and is convinced this is set in stone. In your response to Helen above you said “But I’m sure that abolition will make a big psychological difference, clearing the way to changing the rules so that IPPs can get their parole board hearings more quickly and with fewer pre-conditions”. Is my son right or is there any genuine hope that things will change, do you think there is any chance his parole hearing for Aug 2013 could be brought forward?

    Many thanks,

    Barrie

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Barrie. At present I’m on a ship in mid-Atlantic with very limited internet access so I’m unable to research and give you the exact reference to the Ministry of Justice document or documents in question. IIRC, it was in an early MoJ Green Paper possibly in or around December 2010. It was purely a discussion document and included a number of ideas that are not directly incorporated in the new LASPO Act, but can be assumed to reflect the thinking of the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, and his senior officials. It’s true that LASPO doesn’t directly affect the situation of existing IPP prisoners, but it will be surprising if the Justice Secretary doesn’t use the powers given to him in LASPO to improve the criteria to be used by parole boards in assessing release applications as well as accelerating the processing of such applications by post-tariff IPPs. However Mr Clarke has promised that no IPPs will be released automatically under any new procedures and that each will continue to be be individually assessed for release, as now. So whatever improvements might be made, there are bound to be delays and endless patience will still be required. It will also remain sensible to take as many as possible of the rehab courses recommended in each case to help the parole board to come to a positive conclusion when the time comes.

  • Adele says:

    My Brother was sentenced on the 14th May 2012 but was given an IPP, does this mean that we have an excellent case for an appeal of the scentence??

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Adele. Are you sure it was an IPP and not a life sentence? It’s the first time I’ve heard of an IPP being passed on anyone since the LASPO Bill (containing provision for abolishing IPPs) became law on 1 May but I’m not a lawyer and it’s possible that there have been others as well that I haven’t heard about. LASPO might be waiting for the MoJ to set a date for it to come into effect. Subject to any advice from a qualified lawyer, I would say it’s unlikely that a judge would have passed an IPP sentence without legal power to do so and I doubt very much whether there are grounds for appeal in relation to the date on which the sentence was passed. Your brother needs proper legal advice on this and I’m certainly not qualified to provide it, I’m afraid. Good luck!

  • Peter; law student says:

    Dear Brian et al.,

    Well done on all your efforts. I believe the abolition of IPPs is a significant step in the right direction. Let us hope Ken Clarke can deliver on the implementation of his promised “rehabilitation revolution”.

    I read Adele’s comment above and thought I’d try to help. Although LASPO was enacted on 1 May 2012, only certain provisions came into immediate effect, and thereby became the law. The bulk of the Act’s provisions are not intended to come into effect until later (I think around August 2013).

    In that case, a judge could by law hand down an IPP sentence, although it would be bad policy considering the clear intention of Parliament in s.123, LASPO – potentially even amenable to Judicial Review. 

    Please correct me if I am wrong (which would be slightly worrying, as I am halfway through my finals).

    Best,
    Peter 

    Brian writes: Thank you for this all too plausible contribution, Peter. Can anyone provide corroboration?

    Meanwhile, good luck with the rest of your finals!

  • Sima Khan says:

    Dear Brian

    I have just read this article and cant believe its actually happened where the IPP sentence has been abolished. I know it wont make much difference to people who are already serving but i do wantt to say thank you for your blog and support.  i think this was the main source of infromation and advice for all of us. It was much appreciated. Thank you so much and well done to you and everyone who helped for this to happen. TTHHAANNKK YOOUU

    Brian writes: Thank you for this very kind message. I’m very glad that my blog has served as a kind of forum in which people have been able to swap experiences, information and advice on IPPs and that this has sometimes been helpful; and I hope it will continue to provide that service as long as it’s needed. I firmly believe that the abolition of IPPs — which it now appears won’t come into effect until next year — will eventually bring about earlier release for the majority of existing IPPs than would otherwise have been the case, although to some extent this may depend on Kenneth Clarke keeping his job as Justice Minister beyond any ministerial reshuffle that might take place in the summer.

  • Sue A says:

    Hi Brian and everyone, just wanted to share my news!
    My son has been granted his parole, Yipee. After serving 7 years on a 21 month sentence it’s about time!!!
    So good luck to everyone xx

    Brian writes: Thank you very much, Sue, for this excellent news. Seven years in prison with a 21-month tariff is an outrage: as you rightly say, it’s about time! I just hope that this more enlightened approach is being repeated on a growing scale in response to mounting pressure from the Ministry of Justice. There are still only a few straws in the wind, as far as I’m aware, but perhaps enough to encourage us to hope that cracks are beginning to appear in the brick wall.

  • MARK MULLANY says:

    What appears to have been missed in the debate about the abolition of the IPP sentence is that whilst it is not to be made retrospective or in other words abolishes it for those already serving the sentence, they will be released on licence in the same way as if the law was never changed. This licence can be for life although it can be cancelled after 10 years if there is no history of further offending or concern. The licence means that an IPP offender can continue to be recalled to prison even if he or she has not committed another offence. Failing to report to the probation officer, recall. A late appointment, recall. Changing address without notifying the probation officer, recall. Taking on employment not approved by the probation officer, recall. He or she will comply with any requirements specified by the probation officer including attending community courses, failing which, recall. He or she shall be well behaved and not do anything which could undermine the purposes of supervision on licence failing which, recall. And more. Probation officers can be ruthless and demanding and with some 10% of the prison population being recalls as the result of the probation officers holding the whip hand where offenders are sent back to prison for the most minor of infractions a released IPP offender will continue to be at risk of recall. The release of an IPP offender is not the end of things but only the beginning and if ever recalled during the licence period it will start all over again with even more uncertainty.To begin with, a released IPP will report weekly to the probation officer which can go to once a fortnight after a lengthy period and all the time the probation officer will have access to police intelligence etc.about him or her. It really is a lot to expect that any offender on a long term licence will never be at high risk of recall given the risk society in which we now live where public protection takes precedence over and above everything else and that could even mean the offender having a disagreement with his or her probation officer which is interpreted as being difficult to manage: recall
     
    Brian writes: Thank you very much for this sobering reminder of the perils for IPP and other prisoners of release on licence. It’s sad that probation officers, of all people, are in some cases so harsh in their attitudes to rehabilitation as distinct from punishment.

  • MARK MULLANY says:

    For the sake of clarity, an IPP sentence with a 2 year tariff is not a 2 year sentence anymore than a life sentence with a 15 year tariff is a 15 year sentence. I despair when I read the daily rags where its reported that a murder only got say 20 years when in fact he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serves a MINIMUM of 20 years. Its headline grabbing which appeals to Daily Mail readers and has the capacity of getting the public up in arms. IPP sentences whilst unfair in principle follows on from Preventative Detention of the 1950-1960s where an offender could be sentenced to up to 14 years PD for stealing a bottle of milk on to the 1997 Crime Sentences Act where an offender could receive an automatic life sentence for a second serious violent offence no matter how far apart the convictions were. I know of one chap who committed a robbery aged 17 but later having straightened himself out got married had a family, kept out of trouble had a row with a neighbour when he was in his 40s causing him bodily injury. He got life imprisonment under the 2 strikes law. With the new legislation to abolish IPPs and impose MANDATORY life sentences for a second serious offence and also extended sentences and licences, I foresee, old wine in new bottles.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Mark. Clearly all mandatory sentences, whether defined by the nature of the offence (e.g. life imprisonment for murder) or by the “two strikes” rule, will inevitably result in grave injustice. In the case of the extension of mandatory life sentences for serious offences (in reality the quid pro quo for the abolition of IPPs), there is an escape clause in the legislation which allows the judges to impose a lesser sentence than life even for the new list of offences if a life sentence would result in injustice, but it will be a brave judge who risks being pilloried in the Sun and the Daily Mail, and perhaps in parliament, by making use of this let-out more than a couple of times. Some judges sometimes seem almost as scared of being labelled as “soft on crime” as the more cowardly of the politicians.

  • Laura says:

    “Thankfully, no more IPP sentences can now be passed. But all those handed down before 1 May 2012 remain in force”

    According to my partner’s solicitor this statement is not true and IPP sentences ARE still been passed.

    Can somebody confirm?

    Thanks.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. I’m afraid your partner’s solicitor is right: please see
    http://www.barder.com/3610/comment-page-1#comment-142510
    which has since been confirmed, although no-one else seems to have any information about the intentions of the Ministry of Justice regarding the date they intend to set for the coming into operation of the relevant clause. I hope to have more to say about this in a new post as soon as I have a moment (I’m still catching up after five weeks away). Even though the judges are evidently within their rights in continuing to pass IPP sentences, it seems contrary to natural justice to continue to do so after Parliament has approved their abolition. But in some circumstances they may have no choice.

    The delay in setting a date is surely indefensible.

  • Richard Hunt says:

    i personally think the IPP’s are a good thing for certain crimes like murder. my 15 month old sons killer got 24 years in december 2010, and was then given an IPP, which means he will never get out at which i am very glad. there are a lot of people on here commenting saying they are glad the IPP’s are being stopped, but i see most of them have people in jail. a life sentence should mean life, with no chance of parole. my sons killer will no doubt be realesed one day, where as i will have a life sentence with out my son.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. I understand your feelings and I might well share them if one of my children had been murdered. But it’s a basic principle of justice that sentences and decisions on release of offenders are decided impartially and objectively, not by the offender’s victims or their relatives. I’m slightly puzzled by what you say: IPPs can’t be awarded for murder, for which a life sentence is mandatory, so if your son’s killer got 24 years for murder, that must have been the minimum period of a life sentence; and if he subsequently got an IPP, it must have been for a second and different offence. Moreover, it’s not the case that because he was given both a life sentence and an IPP “he will never get out”: both kinds of sentence allow, rightly, for the possibility of rehabilitation, unless the life sentence is accompanied by a stipulation that the offender must never be released, which evidently was not the case here.

  • Helen says:

    Dear Richard,

    Because my only son is still in prison, over 5 years after being given an 18 months minimum IPP tariff, and I am glad that eventually no IPPs will ever be given again, it doesn’t prevent me from feeling very sorry and sad about your situation.  However, I must say that IPPs have been given for lots of quite minor offences.  We were told that an 18 months IPP tariff equated to a 3 year determinate sentence, (which reflects the seriousness of the crime), but with the impossible proviso that the person has to prove to the Parole Board that he no longer presents a danger to the public before he can be released.  There are hundreds of people still in prison, years past their minimum tariff, trying to prove this impossible condition, and this is one of the reasons the Government has finally capitulated, and will eventually abolish the IPP sentence. 

  • maria says:

    question regarding ipp?
                                      is it true that no more ipp’s can be passed after may 2012? why im asking is my 19yr old son was given a 4yr ipp in july 2012 so doesthis mean we can appeal?

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. The law containing abolition of IPPs was passed on 1 May this year but that part of it han’t yet come into effect. As far as I know, the government has not yet set a date for the abolition of IPPs to come into effect. Until it does, and until the set date arrives, the courts may still pass IPPs which will remain in force even after new IPPs can no longer be handed down. Abolition, whenever it comes, will not be retrospective and will not be grounds for an appeal by those who received an IPP before the abolition date. It’s possible that by the time your son has served his 4-year tariff the government may have made it a little less difficult for IPP prisoners who have served out their tariff to meet the criteria for their release, so it would be sensible for your son to spend the next four years building up a record of good behaviour, taking all the available rehabilitation courses, and generally persuading everyone with whom he comes into contact that he has reformed and is unlikely to reoffend if and when he is released. But I’m not a lawyer and your son should get advice from a good solicitor.

    I’m sorry not to be able to give you a more welcome reply.

  • grant lockwood says:

    its not the getting out thats hard. i’m gonna be recalled for god knows how long, just for not going back to a hostel full of sex offenders one night. i got a 2 and half year tariff, served four and half years, did ten months in a hostel full of sex offenders, and am now gonna have to serve years in prison, even though no offence was committed. get rid of it, its a farce, and kills minds, as well as families.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. There is other evidence of IPPs (and lifers) who have been released on licence but subsequently recalled to prison indefinitely because of what appear to be relatively trivial breaches of their licence conditions. This surely needs to be reviewed. Perhaps when a probation officer or other supervisor judges that a licence condition has been breached, a magistrate should be responsible for deciding whether the breach has actually occurred, and if so whether it is sufficiently grave to justify recall to prison, or failing that to impose some other, lesser penalty, such as community service in some form.

  • Madalene says:

    My mum was given a 4 year ipp in march 2008. She has completed all courses, has good reports and has never been in any trouble whilst in prison. The prison staff have even said that she should not be there, yet she has been told that she will still have to serve another 12 to 18 months in an open prison, and that is only if she gets parole.
    Her original offence was alcohol related, so she must be able to prove that she will never drink again in order to get parole.
    She has done aa in prison, and has researched aa meetings that would be available upon her release. 
     Both of my parents were alcoholics, as was my stepfather. Five months after my mum was sentenced my dad died of multiple organ failure and internal bleeding, due to alcohol (my step dad had left my mum for another woman the day before she went to prison). In my opinion my mum has learned her lesson on how destructive drinking alcohol can be and has no desire to ever touch it again.
    Surely almost 5 years of being sober must count for something (its common knowledge alcohol or “hooch” can be obtained in prison). 
    I would like to know if anyone has set up a group like you earlier advised Mary?

    Brian writes: Thank you, Madalene. I am replying (with bad news, I’m afraid) in a separate comment — see http://www.barder.com/3610/comment-page-1#comment-150705.
     

  • Brian says:

    @Madalene: The replacement yesterday of Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary by the hard-line Chris Grayling is likely to be very bad news indeed for IPP prisoners and their families. Mr Clarke was committed to reforming the criteria for assessing whether to release post-tariff IPP prisoners to make parole boards responsible for approving release unless there were concrete grounds for rejecting it: Mr Grayling, judging by his past statements, is very unlikely to proceed with any such reform. Parliament has passed an Act that includes abolition of future IPPs but Mr Clarke had still not been able to set a date for this to come into effect when he was sacked yesterday: now Mr Grayling may never set a date, in which case IPPs will continue to be handed down. All this is a crushing disappointment for those who saw reform and abolition so tantalisingly close. The coalition government has now lost its last claim to be pursuing an enlightened course on civil rights and penal policy.

    With regard to your mother, Madalene, whose situation you describe in your comment at http://www.barder.com/3610/comment-page-1#comment-150616, it looks as if she will only complete her 4-year tariff this year, and with very little hope of any liberalising of the system now that Mr Grayling is the responsible minister, I wouldn’t raise your hopes too high for her early release. I’m sorry to be pessimistic.

  • lesley vann says:

    Hello Brian

    I am reading about the IPP sentences.  What i would like to say is that why should a probation officer have the right to recall  someone on an IPP sentence as you are sure to get those who love the authority over someone` s  life.  My Son is doing a 5 year IPP which he is now on his 5th year.  He is classed as dangerous even though he does not have a dangerous bone in his body.  After being abused for 15 years years by the yobs who attacted on a regular basis from the pub near to where he was bought up he finally cracked and ended up going and fetching a knife which i totally disagree with but they just used to kick the sh** out of him.  The Judge … was not interested in my Sons defence at all he was wanted to go in a rush for his lunch.  My Son whilst in prison has lost his sister-in-law,  his cousin and 30 hours after that he lost his beloved father.  He is locked away with NO end date of release and suffering so much inside he also worries about me as i am 63 years old,  his dad was only 61 when he passed away last year. YET HOW CAN IT BE THAT A PROBATION OFFICER WHO WANTS TO KEEP THEMSELVES IN A JOB CONDUCT THE REST OF HIS LIFE ESPECIALLY BE ABLE TO HAVE THE SAY ON WHAT HAPPENS TO THE REST OF HIS LIFE I MEAN LETS BE HONEST THEY ARE NOT PERFECT THEMSELVES.  My Son needs to be with his family where he can be shown love and care obviously when he has done is sentence but then you get the Officers that like to goad these prisoners so that it gets harder for them to come home to their love ones who suffer every day of their lives as well.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Lesley. I have removed from your comment the name of the judge whose conduct you criticise since in the nature of things your criticism may be no more than a suspicion, unsupported by evidence; and even if you do have supporting evidence for the suspicion, this is clearly not the place to investigate the matter.
    On the question of the power of a probation officer to recall to prison an IPP who has been released on licence, I simply don’t know whether there is any possibility of appealing against such a recall decision or of asking for it to be independently reviewed. Presumably in the last resort it could be subject to judicial review? I don’t know the facts on this, and I wouold much appreciate it if anyone who does would let readers of this blog know by putting a clarification in a new comment here.

  • Helen says:

    I am sorry but I cannot advise on the above posting, except to say how sorry I feel for the people involved.  After one month’s wait, yesterday our son was given the news we dreaded, a knock back, in spite of him being almost 4 years beyond his 18 months’ IPP tariff.  The Panel felt he had not made ‘significant progress to change his attitude and tackle his behavoural problem.’  ie, should do more courses.  He has done a few already, and had a so-described ‘robust’ release plan.  One problem, and we were at his hearing, the Offender Manager obviously is against him, and pulled everything out of the bag that she could throw at him.  So, really we shouldn’t have been surprised at the knock back.  Yes, these people do have the power to do everything they can to help keep people in prison. It saves them work in the community.  What we have to do is maintain our dignity, and just try our best to keep our loved ones’ spirits up.  It is difficult, and I know that as much as anybody.  I am in my late 60s, and have just the one son too.  Also, whilever we have people like Brian, and also Lord Ramsbotham, who are doing their utmost to keep on highlighting the unfairness of the IPP sentence, then there is hope.  Please, just hang in there, Lesley. 

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Helen. I’m sorry to read such disappointing news. If Kenneth Clarke had been allowed to stay at the Ministry of Justice, I believe he would have been tackling the problem of how to liberalise the procedures for assessing applications for release by post-tariff IPPs, the necessity of which he had publicly recognised. Whether the new Justice Secretary sees any need for such liberalisation I don’t know. Perhaps the fact that it would save public money will spur him on to do so. But the prime minister’s speech on crime and punishment yesterday suggests once again how terrified ministers still are of being labelled “soft on crime”, just as New Labour ministers were in the Blair and Brown years.

  • There are two types of Recall. One lasts 28 days and the prisoner is re-released. The other lasts until Parole Board say someone can be re-released.
    There is a process to go through for the second type because it is exactly like the process that would have been originally gone through to get release from an IPP.
    You are quite right about Probation Officers. There are some who seem to enjoy dreaming up other reasons to suggest someone is dangerous and to suggest further courses or assessments. What it can boil down to is that the particular Probation Officer doesn’t appreciate the prisoner’s attitude.
    On the other hand IPP is a Life Sentence. Being released is a privilege, not a right. The recall system ensures that those who are released are aware that if they misbehave they can be recalled straight to prison. The trouble with IPP is that some people were assumed to be dangerous following analysis of their offending by Probation and by the Court; however, when they have entered the IPP system, the courses and the assessments have thrown up an alternative picture. What we are finding we have to do, more and more, is speed up the process by instructing experts to undertake assessments and to recommend courses simply because the system is so clogged up that Prisons and Probation cannot cope. Sometimes the assistance we offer is accepted. Sometimes it is rejected. However, at least we try.
    What any recalled prisoner needs is to be advised by a Solicitor who deals with IPP and understands the Recall process. My colleague John Griffith is such a Solicitor. john@emmersons-solicitors.co.uk

    Brian writes: Michael, thank you very much for this clear explanation of the position. Your blunt statement that an IPP is a life sentence, with no automatic right ever to be released, is a jolting reminder that the new Justice Secretary has still apparently not fixed a date for the abolition of IPPs, as enshrined in the LASPO Act 2012, to come into effect.

  • lesley vann says:

    Thank you for your reply to my email Brian

    I would just like to say that it was not a suspicion that the Judge wanted to get out for his Lunch it was a fact he said so himself.
    He was not at all interested in my Sons defence.  My Son as i said before was bullied by these bunch of yobs for around 15 years.  He had so many of his mobiles phones stolen and smashed up by these inhumane people that are still walking the streets that i had to keep replacing them.  My Son has suffered and still does suffer with 4 types of epilepsy and those horrible people knew that!!,  if you could have seen how he came home with his head kicked in, his nose brokenon many occasions, barely able to walk you would understand why i am so angry.  These are sub humans that knew my Son and only got at him when he was alone as he was and is a very caring person  (HIS WORDS NOT MINE)  “Mum i would rather be hurt myself then hurt anybody”.   I took many photos of him but he would not let me take them to the police, not that they are any better.  My other two sons used to go mad but NO stephen would not let them get involved which now my boys are suffering for him as i am as he was so very close to his beloved dad as we are a very close family.   One of the lads that used to keep my Son talking whilst the others sneaked behind him is in the same prison as he is,  guess why?  because he hit his best friend and killed him.  He got 15 months IPP and guess what he has done nearly 6 years and now talks to my son and apologised to him.  YES!!  i am a softy at heart and feel sorry for him but they did not give a sh**  about my boy.
    Thank you Helen for your comment i am really trying to hold on in there but i feel that i could not die if i wanted to because my Son would then go to pieces and he is still in bits about his dad and cousin and his sister-in-law.

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Lesley. What a very sad story. Unfortunately, there are probably many families of IPPs with similarly sad stories to tell. All we can do is press for the early reform of the system which was promised by the previous Justice Secretary. You might care to consider writing to your MP, if you have not already done so, asking him to find out for you from the Justice Secretary when he intends to introduce reforms to the current badly flawed arrangements for assessing post-tariff IPPs for release, as promised by his predecessor. You could spell out the circumstances in which your son was given an IPP, very much in the terms of your two comments on this blog. This is more likely to achieve results than writing direct to the Justice Secretary.

  • Shad Ali says:

    Dear Brian,

    1n 2008 I was the victim of a serious Section 18 assault. I now have half a face full of titanium as a result of the attack. My attacker was sentenced to 5 years on an IPP order. I chose to forgive my attacker and have spent the last 4 years trying to visit him in prison to help him. There are many reasons for my actions, one of them being, that I have always been opposed to IPPs. I fear that my attacker may spend many years in prison in addition to the 5 that the judge recommended. He was only 28 years of age when sentenced and I feel that it is a waste of a life. The probation service, ie my victim support officer has been a complete waste of time as has the ‘restorative justice’ programme. I cannot believe that my offer to help this man has not been taken up by the prison service as surely this has to be without doubt the most effective way of getting a perpetrator of any crime to address his own behaviour. Perhaps you or someone could offer me some advice as to how I can move forward with this as I genuinely have not been at peace for the last 4 years in the knowledge that this mans whole life could be ruined because of the awful nature of IPP’s and their dehumanising impact.

    Brian writes: Thank you. Everyone reading your eloquent contribution will feel great sympathy and will share your feeling of frustration over the refusal of the authorities to allow you to practise face-to-face restorative justice in the hope of rehabilitating your attacker. However, without knowing the full facts and the reasoning behind the policies of the probation and prison officers, it’s obviously difficult to suggest any way to help.
    Shad Ali

  • Helen says:

    This is such a moving comment, and I genuinely feel for Shad.  The courage shown is absolutely humbling.  Thank you  for sharing this with us. 

  • lesley vann says:

    Yes Shad

    You do make me feel ashamed as i cannot forgive these people for their behaviour to my Son over the years.  Yet you are able to forgive what happened to you.  My son has forgiven but then he would because he is that way too.  But No i can` t  because it was their actions over the years that caused my Sons reaction and has taken him away from us until whenever it is decided he will be fit for society again and yet left alone in the first place he would not be in this situation.  Love Him and Miss Him so much he was an amazing character.
    I mentioned before that these probation officers will do anything to keep Ipp prisoners inside they now think they own these human beings.  I found you can`t  trust them or anybody in the judicial system.  I have also been told that IPP has not been abolished and that people are still being given these sentences but i do not know how true this is.
    I think that you are a marvelous person and i do hope that eventually you will make a full recovery for what has happened to you so you take great care of yourself because we care.     

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. The position on abolition of IPPs is explained in my blog post at http://www.barder.com/3717. An Act of Parliament that became law last May includes a provision abolishing future (but of course not existing) IPPs but the government has still not set the date on which that provision is to come into effect. The new hard-line Justice Secretary is unlikely to be in a hurry to set a date. Until he does, the judges have no option but to continue to administer the law as it is, which means continuing to hand out IPPs. But existing IPPs will not be directly affected even when the date for abolition is fixed and reached.

  • Shad Ali says:

    I would like to bring this article to everyone’s attention. It provides some hope for prisoners and their families. Many of you may have already seen it so please forgive me for any duplication.

    Monday 29 October 2012

    Prisoners locked up indefinitely could claim millions in compensation
    Dangerous prisoners locked up indefinitely could claim more than £10million in damages after leading judges ruled that their treatment breached their human rights.

    Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary announced he was scrapping indeterminate sentences last year Photo: GETTY


    By Martin Beckford, Home Affairs Editor

    3:46PM BST 18 Sep 2012

    As many as 3,500 inmates who have served longer than their original jail term without having access to rehabilitation courses could be in line for compensation payouts.

    Ministers may also be forced to change the grounds on which those serving indeterminate sentences can be released, following the defeat in the European Court of Human Rights, giving violent criminals fresh hope of being set free.

    The ruling will provide the first test for Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, who is expected to be tougher on sentencing and the powers of human rights law than his predecessor, Kenneth Clarke.

    Asked about the judgment in the Commons, Mr Grayling said: “I’m very disappointed by the ECHR decision this morning.

    “I have to say, it is not an area where I welcome the court seeking to make rulings, it is something we intend to appeal.”

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    Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection, known as IPPs, were a Labour policy that allowed criminals to be locked up indefinitely until they were deemed to pose a threat no longer.
    Since they were introduced more than 6,500 offenders have been jailed without a fixed date for release, and according to the Strasbourg ruling some of them have little chance of getting out.
    Judges said “IPP prisoners swamped the system in place for dealing with those serving indeterminate sentences”, and that “existing resources were insufficient” for them to undergo behaviour courses before they could be considered for parole.
    They agreed with the three Britons who brought the case – Brett James, Nicholas Wells and Jeffrey Lee – that there were “delays” in accessing the prison courses, caused by “a lack of resources”.
    This was “the consequence of the introduction of draconian measures for indeterminate detention without the necessary planning and without realistic consideration of the impact of the measures”.
    “Further, the length of the delays in the applicants’ cases was considerable: for around two and a half years, they were simply left in local prisons where there were few, if any, offending behaviour programmes.”
    The judges said it was a breach of Article 5:1 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which bans arbitrary detention – for them to have been kept locked up beyond the minimum term specified when they were jailed, without having access to rehabilitation courses.
    The three men, who were jailed in 2005 for violent offences, were awarded almost £14,000 in damages and close to £30,000 in costs.
    If all 3,500 remaining IPP prisoners claimed compensation on the same grounds, it could cost the Government as much as £16m.
    Ministers may also have to make more rehabilitation courses available to those still serving IPPs, or make release tests less reliant on completion of the programmes.
    The Ministry of Justice had already announced it was scrapping IPPs last year, but it is still appealing against the ECHR ruling.
    The Director of Campaigns for the Howard League for Penal Reform, Andrew Neilson, said: “By appealing, the Justice Secretary is delaying the inevitable. He knows as well as anyone else that is ridiculous and unfair to say to people, many of whom have completed their sentence, that they will only be released if they complete certain rehabilitation courses – and then not provide those courses.

    “This makes a mockery of the basic principles of the English justice system, which has always locked people up for what they have done rather than what someone thinks they might do. He should accept this common sense judgment and if he wants to avoid compensation claims focus now on working out a way to safely release those who have already served their time but are still in prison.” 

  • Brian says:

    Comments on this blog post are now closed.  Please contribute any comments on IPPs to the space provided at the foot of the more recent post at http://www.barder.com/3754.