December 01 2021

Nightmare known as ‘IPP’

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Nightmare known as ‘IPP’

The Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) was first implemented in 2005 following its introduction under the Criminal Justice Act of 2003. The purpose of this sentence was for it to be handed out to offenders convicted of a crime of either a serious sexual or violent nature and one which deemed them to be considered of significant risk to the public. The sentence being indeterminate means that the court on sentencing will set out a tariff which in most cases is equal to the half way point of the equivalent determinate sentence. The tariff is the minimum amount of time that the offender must serve before even being considered for release by the parole board. There is no set release date. Projections at the time of implementation were that maybe a few hundred of these sentences would be handed out. Yet as of March 2012 there were 6,017 IPP prisoners.

Problems became apparent almost from the offset. In 2007 the green paper Prisons with a purpose mentioned that ‘the prison service should try and deal with prisoners before the end of their minimum tariff’ and the fact that many IPP prisoners can neither get onto the requisite course in their current prison nor be moved to another prison where a particular course, deemed necessary for the prisoner to show that they are no longer a danger to the public, is available’.  If they are able to obtain a place on a course, first they go a long waiting list. This problem has not been addressed and has in fact escalated due to the number of IPPs required to do these courses and they are simply not available to them.

The Justice Secretary showed that on 8th October 2007 the amount of post tariff IPP prisoners was approximately 400; this was 0.5% of the then current prison population. Recent figures however show that over 3,500 are post tariff, almost 5% of today’s total prison population – an increase of almost 800%. Some tariffs have been known to be set as little as 28 days. Approximately 1,100 of these prisoners are two years post-tariff or more.

In 2008 issues were raised in parliament and subsequent amendments were made which set out a new statute changing the minimum tariff allowed to be two years.

Yet at present there are still almost 1,255 who wouldn’t have received an IPP had they been sentenced after July 2008, but to this day remain in custody with little hope of release. What makes this particularly unpalatable is the fact that those who are sentenced for similar offences after July 2008 are given determinate sentences, behave badly and are released anyway, while those sentenced pre-July 2008 are left in jail.

Further changes are in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 where the IPP has been abolished and replaced by a more understandable sentence structure. However, once again, nothing has been done to address the situation for those already serving. The Parole Board is massively over-stretched, and its decision making (for perhaps understandable reasons) is extremely cautious. There has been mention of a new release test but all we are told is that the Government will consider the use of the power to change the release test if it proves a necessity once the situation is reviewed as and when the new sentencing law has been bought into force.

Yet there is still no clarity as to what this will entail. And in any event once the offender has the ‘dangerousness’ label the onus is on him or her to prove that he isn’t dangerous anymore.

When looking at current statistics some positive movement can be seen. Between the introduction of this sentence in 2005 and 2009 only 49 prisoners had been released, then in 2009 this figure rose to 53, in 2010 it was 97 and then in 2011 it was 300. Other factors that demonstrate this can be seen in the fact that at present there are 617 IPP prisoners in open conditions, almost 300 prisoners are waiting for transfer to open conditions, approximately 15% of whom had their transfer approved by the Secretary of State without referral to the parole board (via the process described in the case of Guittard – see HERE). Some 20% of those waiting transfer to open conditions are pre-tariff IPP prisoners. It is therefore possible to deduce that that IPPs are indeed moving through the system more quickly than in previous years and perhaps this creates a glimmer of hope for pre-and post-tariff IPP prisoners who remain in closed conditions.

What next?
So what about those serving who are nowhere near the point of recommendation for either open conditions or release, or those who are post tariff and have no idea which way to turn next?  We’re not suggesting that there are no dangerous offenders. There are undoubtedly offenders in prison for whom the ‘dangerous’ tag is entirely warranted. It is natural to understand how these prisoners should show that they can work on reducing their risk so that their threat to the public can be adequately managed before they are released. But that does not change the fact that the system, as it currently stands, is completely unfair. None of this actually tackles the real issues that these prisoners have to face on a daily basis and the inherent uncertainty created by this sentence.


We have composed a questionnaire which we are hoping to circulate to as many current serving IPPs as possible. The purpose of this is to be able to gather the necessary information from those currently serving, which will then give us clear examples provided by IPP prisoners as to how the current system is failing them.  Once all the information has been collected, it will then be formatted as part of an impact statement to be presented directly to the Secretary of State and also the Justice Committee. It will also give us the opportunity to highlight through their own individual experiences that something needs to be done and needs to be done now. Things are indeed moving in a positive direction all be it incredibly slowly.

You can download that questionnaire HERE.




15 responses to “Nightmare known as ‘IPP’”

  1. Alex31pet says:

    This sentence is a total joke, it will never work and has never worked, Britian is well known for breaking families up and this is one good example.

  2. Maxinefellows40 says:

    This ipp sentance is causing heart break. My son is serving an ipp, I do not condone his behaviour , he should be punished for his crime but I did not commit a crime so why must I suffer by not knowing when and if my son will be home

    • katie says:

      I too am in the same position. However my son has bee lucky enough to get oto the Offender behaviour programme and is doing very well. He has no actual date for his parole and we dont know a release date. QWe are living i a sort of limbo, all the uncertainty is having a bad effect on our lives. He did wrong, he is paying the price, we dont codone what he did, but he is our son. He has worked hard and has never bee viollent or agressive or disrespectful in prison, people tell him that he is doing well. We just hope that all his hard work, counts for something when he gets as far as parole, whenever that is! and is lucky enough to be released! whenever that is….!

  3. Elizabethleson says:

    I am a mother who’s son is serving an IPP. this type of sentence is barbaric gives No hope to prisoners serving this sentence nor their family’s who also suffer greatly and have done nothing wrong. Like many mothers I do not condone the crime and feel a sentence like this is abhorent. Leaving prisoners on this sentence with No hope of a release. The set courses are not available in many prisons long waiting lists to get on them this must be changed to allow families and prisoners hope.

  4. Laurahood says:

    i’m a mum of a i.p.p as well its hard on us as well as them

    • Jenny Evans says:

      it is a life sentence for every family with a relative on an IPP. Get involved, write to your MP and arrange a meeting, ask him what he intends to do about it.

  5. Lost Lawyer says:

    Part of me thinks IPP’s have a place. But I think the threshold for imposing one should be higher. If someone who is considered a ‘violent’ person is given an IPP, regardless of his Violent past ‘not knowing’ how long you have left in prison would be worse than the sentence itself. There is no goal, no ideal to work towards – no date, that on good behaviour you will get out. Then we have to remember IPP’s are a brain child of Labours Tough on Crime Policy.

    The idea is that the IPP will run until the Prisoner is in the right state of mind and whose behaviour no longer poses a risk to the public. But who can second guess every persons thought or movement?

    What is worse, is that I feel those who decided whether an IPP Prisoner is released or not, will not decide a date that appears to be “too lenient”. After all, if they re-offended and seriously injured someone, it would be their head on the block, and they won’t be willing to take that risk.

    Some statistics regarding those who suffer from depression who have an IPP or suicide rates would be helpful to seem and could become the starting block for Reform.


    • Allyceswift says:


    • Jenny Evans says:

      My son had a two year tariff and is still there over five years on, he made it to open and had a weekend release at a bail hostel, he told me he was suicidal and most people on IPP were suffering psychological problems , I told him to seek help but he said if he were to do that he would be classed as psychologically unstable, Catch 22 springs to mind, I persuaded him to return of his own volition, which he did two days late and will now have to wait another two years to be considered for parole.What next ? life sentences for juveniles with no parole as they do in America ?. that’s right folks, they are locking up children of 15 for life over there with no hope of parole. Western civilized society? me thinks not.

  6. tdawn says:

    My son received an ipp just over a week ago am i correct in thinking these sentances were abolished and not supposed to be given in court anymore , i again dont condone my sons actions , but he worked with the police admited what he had done , which they did say was unusual , the crimes in question were committed 3 yrs earlier , he was convicted alone even though the police know there was someone else involvolved , the barrister commented on the 24 yrs my son got as to someone who had denied the allegations and had been through trial not pleaded guilty , i am shocked and horrified when poeple are walking away with half the 24 yrs he got with no parole,and ipp , its barbaric and what the judges that are still giving these sentances out is giving the familys a life sentance too .I will say the prison forgot to transport my son for his sentancing , so he rang me i rang the solicitor and the courts at his request , and my daughter who was there said the courts closed at 4 he was brought in at 4.15 and the judge looked really annoyed at proberly being kept back , this isnt the first time things like this has happened ,nightmare , and would love some comments back as i am really just new to this

  7. Jenny Evans says:

    What are you going to do about the fact that non British nationals are being released when they have served their tariff while British prisoners languish indeterminately ? surely this cannot be acceptable, I am not a Lawyer but a Law student and mother of an IPP prisoner, I have lobbied my MP and there are other people out there trying to be heard but not to much avail. What about their Human Rights ?. Nobody seems to be willing to go any further than wittering on and going around in circles posting blogs. There is no Justice only the Law.

  8. […] can read more Sophie Barnes on IPP sentences on https://www.thejusticegap.com HERE – see also HERE and […]

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  10. joyce calow says:

    My son is an ipp prisoner.Before he was given this sentence whilst on bail he was free to walk about in public and go anywhere so to be given this sentence and saying he is a danger to the public is a bit hypercritical if you ask me. He has done all the courses given to him in prison and is due to be moved to another prison. He as been inside for nearly 3 years and doesn’t know when he will be released. He is missed by his family everyday.Our justice system stinks and needs to be looked at.Now that the ipp has been abolished don’t you think that the ipp prisoners crimes should be looked at again and sentences rethought?

  11. liz elder says:

    My partner is another victim of the I.P.P (as are myself and my family because of it). I met him after he was released SIX YEARS over his NINE MONTH tariff, due to waiting lists for required courses and transfers to prisons that offered them.

    I just wanted to add that when they do get released we are ALL still serving this sentence due to the licenses they will all get. We have a dreadful probation officer who constantly digs for reasons to recall my partner and did so last year over NOTHING. We won and he was released, but had to wait half a year for the parole board to meet. We just can’t go through that again.

    If I can urge you all to do anything, please, please appeal against your family member’s I.P.P with a solicitor, they take Legal Aid too.

    Remember that you’re not alone and that we are many. The I.P.P train wreck is in the public domain now and it’s just a matter of staying strong and fighting against the injustice. I hope you all check this site again, good luck and chin up!

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