The Government has rejected recommendations to review all Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences (IPPs). Justice secretary, Dominic Raab, said the government had rejected resentencing as it ‘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’. The decision which leaves nearly 3,000 prisoners in limbo has provoked significant criticism.
IPPs were introduced in 2003 to protect the public from serious offenders whose crimes did not merit a life sentence. They were indeterminate sentences, involving a minimum term that needed to be served in custody before a prisoner could be released. Under the scheme, prisoners would only be released once the Parole Board was satisfied that they no longer needed to be confined for public safety. Although abandoned in 2012, an estimated 3000 people remain incarcerated under the scheme.
The scheme was reviewed in the Justice Committee’s September 2022 report. There, the Committee held that IPP sentences were ‘irredeemably flawed’ and found that inadequate provision of support services made it difficult to rehabilitate IPP prisoners. The Committee also found that IPP sentences were having detrimental effect on prisoners’ mental health; the prospect of serving a sentence without an end date caused higher levels of self-harm and suicide as well as a lack of trust in a system that was meant to rehabilitate them. Victims and their families were also confused as to when and how an offender would be released. The Justice Committee’s report called on the Government to re-sentence all prisoners under the scheme.
Today’s response from the Government garnered strong disapproval. The chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill, stated:, ‘This is a missed opportunity to right a wrong that has left nearly 3,000 people behind… [T]hese people will remain held in an unsustainable limbo.’
Overall, the issues raised in The Justice Committee’s September 2022 report are unlikely to disappear. As Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: ‘The committee’s recommendations do not go away, and the inadequate response from this government means that any future justice secretary will have to revisit them.’