IPPs: extracts from parliamentary papers, October 2011
| Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill Committee Stage Report
Bill No 235 of 2010-12
RESEARCH PAPER 11/70 20 October 2011
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 21 June 2011, as Bill 205 of 2010-12, and had its second reading on 29 June 2011. The Government also published Explanatory Notes.
The Public Bill Committee published its call for written evidence on 30 June 2011 and the Bill had 16 sessions in Committee between 12 July and 11 October 2011. In its first four sessions, the Committee took evidence from numerous witnesses.
Library Research Paper 11/53, prepared for the second reading of the Bill, discusses the background to the Bill and some of the controversy it has provoked.1 The Bill page on the Parliament website (where all the Bill documents can be found) provides more information on the Bill‘s progress, as does the Government‘s Justice website. Members and their staff also have access to information about the Bill via the Bill Gateway on the Parliamentary intranet.
[At the Second reading debate on 29 June 2011] Sadiq Khan [Labour Shadow Justice Secretary] queried the absence of anything on IPP sentences from the Bill when the Government had consulted on a new approach to them as part of its recent consultation Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders. He said that Labour opposed the Government‘s preferred option of raising the minimum tariff to a 10-year determinate sentence before an IPP sentence could be imposed, saying that it would water down the protection given to the public.
In response, Jonathan Djanogly [Con., Minister of State, Ministry of Justice] said that the Government would be reviewing IPP sentences with a view to replacing them with a clear, tough, predictable system of long, determinate sentences. He considered that these represented the best way to punish and reform criminals so they no longer posed a danger to the public. He indicated that the Government would complete its review by the autumn and would bring forward proposals then. The Government is expected to table a number of amendments to the Bill regarding IPP sentences. At the time of writing no further details were available. Library Standard Note SN 06086 offers an overview of IPP sentences. [Emphasis added — BLB]
Summary: Published 19 October 2011 | Standard notes SN06086 Authors: Pat Strickland
Topic: Administration of justice, Crimes of violence, Criminal law
Sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPPs) were introduced by the last Labour Government from 2005. They were designed to ensure that dangerous violent and sexual offenders stayed in custody for as long as they present a risk to society. Under the system, a person who has committed a specified violent or sexual offence will be given an IPP if the offence was not so serious as to merit a life sentence. Once they have served their “tariff” they will have to satisfy the Parole Board that they no longer pose a risk before they will be released. By June 2010, there were more than 5,600 people serving IPPs.
A number of commentators have expressed serious concerns, including Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the House of Commons Justice Committee and the Prison Reform Trust. The main concerns have been that
• Less serious offenders have been given very short tariffs but then have been kept in prison for a long time after these have expired
• The prison and parole systems could not cope with the need to give all these short tariff prisoners appropriate access to rehabilitative and resettlement programmes so that they could demonstrate they were no longer a risk to society
• The administrative delays resulted in uncertainty and perceived injustice for prisoners and litigation
• The rapid increase in the numbers of those on IPPs contributed to prison overcrowding, which in turn exacerbated the problems with providing rehabilitation
The Labour government set up reviews of the scheme which resulted in administrative improvements and a new “seriousness” threshold introduced by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The present Government has conducted a review of IPPs with a view to replacing them with a tougher determinate sentencing framework. It plans to introduce amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.
Standard Note SN/HA/6086 Updated 19 October 2011
An overview of the criticisms can be found in a thematic review of IPPs which Her Majesty‘s
Chief Inspector of Prisons published in October 2008:
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 created two new indeterminate sentences: the
sentence of indeterminate detention for public protection (IPP) for adults, and a
parallel sentence of detention for public protection (DPP) for children and
young people under 18. They were to be imposed on those who committed
specified =serious violent or sexual offences‘ and who were deemed to pose a
=significant risk of serious harm‘ in the future. The sentence became operative
in April 2005.
The scope of these sentences was very wide. The offence in question could be
one of 95 different offences, from manslaughter to robbery. Moreover, in the
case of adults, the fact of having previously committed any of the 153 offences
specified in the schedule to the Act (including, for example, affray or criminal
damage) created a presumption that the threshold of significant risk of serious
harm had been reached. That presumption could be displaced only if the court
was presented with material about the offence or the offender which made the
imposition of an IPP unreasonable. Once sentenced, offenders were given a
=tariff‘ (the minimum period of imprisonment required for punishment and
deterrence) but would only be released after that point if they could show the
Parole Board that they had reduced their risk to the public. Given the wide
range of offences and the presumptive nature of the legislation, many tariffs
were short: averaging 30 months at first (the equivalent of a five-year
sentence), with one as low as 28 days.
The inevitable consequence of these provisions was an explosion in the
number of those receiving the new sentence: reaching nearly 2,000 by the end
of 2006. Contrary to some reports, this was both predictable and predicted –
within the projections prepared by the Home Office‘s own research department.
It was hoped that other provisions in the Act – particularly the reduction in the
minimum period of imprisonment for those serving longer determinate
sentences – would to some extent compensate. However, it was unarguable
that IPP (and DPP) offenders would require a considerably higher degree of
intervention and management than determinate-sentenced prisoners. They
would not be released until and unless they had done something to satisfy the
Parole Board that their perceived risk to the public had been reduced; and,
once released, they would be subject to licence supervision and possibly recall
to prison for at least 10 years and possibly for life. As this process was the
same as that for life-sentenced prisoners, the National Offender Management
Service (NOMS) decided that they should be managed in the same way as
This large number of new, and resource-intensive, prisoners was fed into a
system that was already under strain. By autumn 2005, when such sentences
began to be passed, the prison population was surging, and has continued to
do so. There are now nearly 8,000 more prisoners in the system than the
average for 2005. This has not only increased pressure, and reduced
manoeuvrability, within the prison system; it has also meant that a great deal of
officials‘ time and energy has been taken up with simply finding enough prison
spaces. Similarly, the Probation Service was increasingly under strain as a
result of increased workloads.
It led to IPP prisoners languishing in local prisons for months and years, unable
to access the interventions they would need before the expiry of their often
short tariffs. A belated decision to move them to training prisons, without any
additional resources and sometimes to one which did not offer relevant
programmes, merely transferred the problem. By December 2007, when there
were 3,700 IPP prisoners, it was estimated that 13% were over tariff. As a
consequence, the Court of Appeal found that the Secretary of State had acted
unlawfully, and that there had been =a systemic failure to put in place the
resources necessary to implement the scheme of rehabilitation necessary to
enable the relevant provisions of the 2003 Act to function as intended‘. Rather
more pithily, a prison lifer governor told us: =It is as though the government
went out and did its shopping without first buying a fridge‘.
It is good that action has now been taken, both legislatively and operationally, to manage the crisis this has created – though not before it resulted in a finding of unlawfulness. However, the crisis has a long tail: there are thousands of prisoners already in the system who, together with the prison and probation services, will feel its consequences for a long time to come.6
6 Her Majesty‘s Chief Inspector of Prisons, The Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection,, September 2008
7 CJJI Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection: A Joint Inspection by HMI Probation and HMI Prisons
March 2010: Foreword
In a second report in March 2010, a joint report by prison and probation inspectorates drew attention to the low number of IPP prisoners released. This also expressed concerns about the variable quality of the work being done and the capacity of the various bodies to handle that work, describing the position as .unsustainable. and calling for a ministerial review:
Nevertheless, the more important issue is the one of overall capacity. We have doubts about probation‘s capacity to work effectively with each case under current resourcing arrangements, when the numbers of cases still coming through the system are so great. Although the range and scope of the IPP sentence was restricted, in amending legislation in 2008, a high number of prisoners remain in the system and continue to enter it.
The wide scope of these sentences means that there will continue to be a huge number of such prisoners that neither the probation service nor the prison system currently have the capacity to handle effectively. They also place a considerable burden on an already stretched Parole Board. We consider that the present position is unsustainable. This suggests the need for a major policy review at Ministerial level. Such a review would need to consider whether the resources needed to manage these sentences properly are proportionate to the benefits they might achieve.