An excellent article about the scandalous continuation of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPPs) despite their apparent abolition by Act of Parliament (see my most recent blog post on the subject here, including comments on it) has appeared in the blog The Justice Gap, at http://thejusticegap.com/News/the-disappeared-the-ipp-prisoners-trapped-in-the-system/. (Hat-tip: Lorna Elliott on Facebook.) This should be compulsory reading for everyone interested in removing a vicious injustice from our penal system.
I have submitted the following comment on Sophie Barnes’s Justice Gap article:
An excellent article. The only missing pieces of the jigsaw are:
(1) an explanation of how IPPs are still being handed down even after parliament has passed a law (given royal assent on 1 May 2012) which includes abolition of future IPPs — it’s because that part of the Act comes into effect only on a date to be fixed by the Justice Secretary, and no such date has been fixed so far;
(2) that even when the date is fixed (if ever), it won’t apply retrospectively, so existing IPP prisoners won’t be affected;
(3) that the outgoing Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, was committed to reforming the system for assessing IPPs for release after they had served their tariffs, but that reform had not been introduced when Clarke was sacked by the prime minister last week; and
(4) that Clarke has been replaced as Justice Secretary by Chris Grayling, reputedly a hard-liner on penal policy who may be reluctant either to fix a date for abolition of IPPs or to reform the system of assessing existing IPPs for release in the ways Ken Clarke had promised to do. Of course refusing to fix a date for abolition is tantamount to frustrating the will of parliament, but it will please the right-wing hangers and floggers on the Tory back benches.
So the outlook for reform and abolition of this wicked blot on our justice system has become bleak with the deeply regrettable removal of Ken Clarke, who was far more liberal and enlightened on the issue than most of his fellow-Tories, than his successor as Justice Secretary, and than the Labour opposition front bench. The LibDems are strangely quiet. It’s a mess.