February 20 2024
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Government rejects calls to review IPP sentences

Government rejects calls to review IPP sentences

Old Bailey: the central criminal court of England and Wales

The families of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences have attacked Dominic Raab’s decision not to re-sentence so called IPPs (Imprisonment for Public Protection) as cowardly.

In a new letter to the House of Common’s justice committee, the Lord Chancellor yesterday explained why he had rejected the main recommendation of their report. ‘Retrospective resentencing of IPP offenders could lead to the immediate release of many offenders who have been assessed as unsafe for release by the Parole Board, many with no period of supervision in the community,’ he wrote. ‘The Government’s long-held view is that this would give rise to an unacceptable risk to public protection and that the IPP Action Plan, suitably updated, remains the best option by which these offenders can progress towards safe release. As such, the Government has no plans to conduct a resentencing exercise.’

The campaign group UNGRIPP described Raab’s refusal to act ‘an act of cowardice’. ‘It rejects the united consensus of people directly affected by IPP, criminal justice experts, and the justice committee that an abolished prison sentence with no end date is unfit for purpose. A justice minister who believes it and abolish sentences legitimate is not fit for the post, and cares about tabloid papers more than the public.’ You can hear an interview with Donna Mooney on UNGRIPP talking about her brother Tommy’s sister and the devastating impact of IPPs on the Justice Gap podcast.

While the IPP sentence was abolished in 2012, this did not affect prisoners already serving those sentences. As reported on the Justice Gap last October, 2,926 IPP prisoners remained in prisons, with 1,429 having never been released. Nearly half of those are at least 10 years over their original tariff (the minimum period required before eligibility for parole). 1,434 have been recalled after release. At the end of 2021,  former Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd told MPs: ‘I  was surprised that as long ago as 11 years ago it was suggested to the Treasury that we should look at this again and start to re-sentence. I believe we ought to get on with it being an option. It is the only fair and just thing to do.’

The Justice Committee had called on ministers to tackle the ‘recall merry-go-round’, ensuring that IPP prisoners avoided ‘unnecessary recall’. The government didn’t not accept the criticism instead calling the recall  process ‘robust’. The response continued: ’We will not introduce primary legislation to enable recalled IPP prisoners to be re-released executively. Since by law it falls to the Parole Board to determine whether the statutory release test is met in the case of every offender serving the IPP sentence, it is right that the Parole Board should apply that test as much as in the case of a recalled IPP prisoner as in the case of an IPP prisoner who has never been released.’

UNGRIPP say that it is ‘deeply concerning’ that the government’s decision has come ‘just days’ after Ministry of Justice statistics showing that IPP population is rising again for the first time. ‘We are urging everybody concerned about IPPs not to give up hope. The justice select committee report has a longer shelflife than the average justice minister, and we will continue campaigning to overturn the IPP sentence for as long as is necessary. We will also be hold in the government accountable for delivering the weak changes it has promised.’