The inquest into the death of an IPP sentenced prisoner who was inappropriately released and recalled to prison will begin this week.
Lewis Powter died in May 2020 at his home in Cambridgeshire, aged 36. He had been sentenced under a controversial Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence for grievous bodily harm in 2007. His tariff expired in 2009 but he was not released until 2011.
In 2012 IPP sentences were scrapped as they had been used widely and inconsistently, but they weren’t abolished retrospectively for those already serving them.
Powter had complex mental health needs and epilepsy, and in prison he was assessed as being at high risk for death by misadventure. In 2017 he was assaulted by three prison officers at HMP Peterborough, all of whom were subject to disciplinary proceedings and one of whom was dismissed. Powter suffered from PTSD after the assault.
Powter’s family have criticised the fact that he remained subject to an IPP sentence even after they were abolished, in particular the fact that he was recalled to prison five times after his initial release. In June 2019 he was recalled to prison after missing a curfew, and despite the National Probation Service describing the recall as ‘inappropriate’, he was not released until November 2019. Upon his release he experienced anxiety about being recalled to prison again. His mother said this week: ‘Although it no longer exists, the IPP sentence remains in place for many who are utterly stuck within a sick and broken system’
Inquest, representing the family, have said in a statement: ‘The evidence on the harmful impacts of unlawful indefinite prison sentences is clear and well founded. Yet thousands of people are still languishing in prison with IPP sentences, or living in the community with the endless threat of recall for the most minor slip ups.
IPP sentences were rightly abolished in 2012, so why in 2020 was Lewis still forced to live with this unjust sentence on his shoulders? We hope this inquest offers necessary scrutiny of the circumstances of his death, and considers ongoing issues for those in a similar position.’