WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
July 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Hunger strikes and self-immolation: IPP prisoners taking desperate action in the face of ‘torture’ sentence

Hunger strikes and self-immolation: IPP prisoners taking desperate action in the face of ‘torture’ sentence

An IPP prisoner undertaking a second brutal hunger strike, and one who set himself on fire in an attempt to take his own life have raised fresh concerns about the sentence described as ‘a stain on the criminal justice system’.

Yusuf Ali was given an IPP (imprisonment for public protection) sentence over 14 years ago after injuring another prisoner, with the sentence stating he must serve a minimum of three years. He remains in prison after five failed bids for parole.

Ali undertook a hunger strike at the end of last year, protesting his treatment under this cruel sentencing regime. Sir Bob Neill, former chair of the justice select committee, spoke about his case in the house of commons before parliament was dissolved. He said: ‘This desperately sad case unhappily demonstrates all the harms that the justice committee reports warned that IPP sentences cause… Any new government should act swiftly to erase this stain on our justice system.’

Mr Ali’s mother spoke to the Independent about the ordeal, saying when she visited him in January after the first hunger strike, he looked ‘like bones on the floor’. She criticised the fact that despite IPP sentences have been outlawed, those still serving them have not been resentenced: ‘IPP has been outlawed now. It’s against the law. So anybody who is on an IPP needs to be reviewed.’ Ali started a second hunger strike at the end of May.

Last week a prisoner at HMP Manchester started a fire in his cell that his sister believes was an attempt to take his own life. Thomas White has been in prison for 12 years after stealing a mobile phone. Also under an IPP sentence, he is being held indefinitely, with no timeframe for release.

His sister, Clara White, told the Independent he had attempted to start a fire in his cell at a different prison several weeks ago. She believes it is only a matter of days or weeks before he attempts to take his own life again, and has asked prison leaders for him to be moved to a mental health facility because of the threat he poses to himself.

White’s case has previously made headlines as one of the most severe injustices within the wider IPP scandal. He was first jailed in 2012 and has been told he can’t be released until he completes rehabilitative work – but the courses he is required to take haven’t been provided in any of the 16 prisons he has been held in. Since being jailed he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has experienced hallucinations.

The IPP sentence was abolished in 2012, but those serving indeterminate tariffs at that point have not had their sentences reconsidered. This is despite a UN torture expert calling on the UK to urgently review all prisoners serving sentences under the defunct regime.

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