June 12 2024
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MoJ announces significant reforms to ‘immoral and unfair’ IPP sentences

MoJ announces significant reforms to ‘immoral and unfair’ IPP sentences

Sarah, who’s partner Rob is serving an IPP sentence that he received in 2007. He was originally sentenced to 1 year 288 days in custody but has been recalled 3 times, he has spent over 11 years in prison from that original sentence. 1st November 2022 in London United Kingdom. (Picture by Andy Aitchison)

The Ministry of Justice has announced significant reforms to imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences, allowing over 1,800 offenders in England and Wales to have their sentences terminated.

IPP sentences were abolished in 2012, although this did not apply retrospectively, meaning prisoners currently serving indeterminate sentences did not have their sentencing reviewed. IPP sentences have left a considerable number of offenders in prison indefinitely, often for minor offences. Individuals under these tariffs would be released on license following an initial period in custody, but then could be recalled to prison at any time if they breached certain conditions. They were also forced to wait a minimum of 10 years before having their license reviewed by the Parole Board. IPP sentences have been labelled ‘immoral and unfair’, including by the former Labour Home Secretary who introduced them.

The new reforms will grant an end date to the offenders’ sentences, with the wait time for parole board consideration reduced from 10 to three years post-release. Where a prisoner avoids recall for two years, their sentences will automatically end.

As of 30th September 2023, there were 2,921 IPP prisoners. Of these 1,269 have never been released and 1,6552 have been recalled to custody. The reform possibly terminates sentences for over 1,800 offenders, who have been serving their license period by March 2025, where an addition of 800 people will be eligible to have their license period reviewed by the Parole Board.

Frustrations remain, however, since the reforms appear to have overlooked those imprisoned for minor offences. UNGRIPP, an advocacy group representing IPP prisoners and ex-prisoners, welcomed the change whilst voicing ‘grave disappointment’ that the proposed reforms do not address those currently confined in prison.

Marc Conway, who served over eight years of an IPP sentence for armed robbery before being released on license, expressed sympathy for those who remain behind bars: ‘Obviously it’s good that I can sleep where I want to sleep, I can live where I want to live… But what saddens me is the people that need the reforms of IPP are the ones that are stuck inside, some of them [having served] three or four times over their recommended tariff.’

Pia Sinha, Chief Executive of the Prison Reform Trust, acknowledged the significance of this change but emphasised the need for enhanced community support to ‘bring to an end the recall merry-go-round’. She said it was ‘disappointing’ that the government did not adopt sensible proposals from the cross-party justice committee, vowing to champion further discussions as the Victims and Prisoners Bill progresses.

Previous reporting from the Justice Gap has found that IPP prisoners are vastly over-represented among those who take their own life in prison. According to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, so far there have been 78 self-inflicted IPP deaths representing 6% of all self-inflicted prison deaths. The sentences have also been criticised by human rights bodies, including by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture.

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