Campaign urgently to support Ken Clarke’s proposal to end indeterminate sentences

In my last post on this blog, I celebrated what looked like the impending abolition of the vicious system of IPPs, or Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection. It seems I spoke too soon.  Ken Clarke’s enlightened proposal to replace IPPs by longer fixed sentences for serious crimes in the Justice Bill shortly to go through parliament is under strong attack, not only from the more reactionary of the tabloids and the usual suspects on the right of the Conservative party, but now also, incredibly, from the Labour party in parliament:  see, for example, the report in the Guardian of 29 June 2011 at, including especially its report of remarks by Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan MP.  There is mounting evidence that this combination of forces gearing up to oppose reform of IPPs may well inflict yet another defeat on one of the most liberal and enlightened features of Ken Clarke’s penal reform programme, already largely emasculated by the prime minister’s fear of the tabloids.  If Labour too persists in opposing abolition of IPPs, that might well tip the scales against this reform.

So there’s an urgent need for everyone who recognises the case for ending the cruel and unjust system of IPPs to email or write to their MPs or Ed Miliband, or Sadiq Khan MP (the Labour shadow Justice secretary) or David Cameron, or as many as possible of them, urging them to put their principles before their fear of being labelled ‘soft on crime’ and to support the replacement of IPPs by fixed sentences for the most serious crimes. Please also consider writing about it to a national or, failing that, your local newspaper.  There’s an increasingly urgent need to do everything possible to stimulate support for the replacement of IPPs in the imminent Justice Bill, and in particular to try to shame the Labour leadership in the House of Commons into dropping its shocking support for the most reactionary elements in UK politics who are campaigning to keep IPPs.  If you have influence with MPs, ministers or shadow ministers, or with civil rights groups such as Liberty, Justice, the Howard League, or the Prison Reform Trust, please go into top gear and do everything possible to mobilise vocal public support for ending indeterminate sentences, as currently proposed in Ken Clarke’s reform programme (what’s left of it).

Some of the arguments against IPPs are deployed at, for example, —

and and, including especially the numerous ‘comments’ appended to these, many of them from the families, children, parents and lovers of the more than 3,000 prisoners serving indeterminate sentences who have served the punishment element of their sentences but see no hope of ever being released.

Time is running out.  Please do whatever you can, and urge your friends, colleagues and contacts to take action too.


2 Responses

  1. John Miles says:

    “Ken Clarke’s enlightened proposal …  is under strong attack …  incredibly, from the Labour party in parliament.”
    Whydo you find this incredible?

    Brian writes: Thank you, John. I assume that this is a purely rhetorical question.

  2. Patricia O says:

    Dear Brian, we are 2 of the thousands of people involved in this inhumane ‘experiment’ having a son who is now 27 months beyond his 18 month tariff, with still no release date to look forward to. Our MP has just responded to yet another letter from us, saying he is taking up his case, and will be aking for clarification about how the reform of IPP sentences will affect prisoners currently serving these sentences.  He will also ask Crispin Blunt about when changes, proposed months ago, will be made to the guidance for the risk test.  So, everyone out there, as Brian says,  please keep writing etc.  I will post any more info we receive. Best wishes, Patricia

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Patricia. I’m glad your MP is being helpful. My impression is that no firm decisions have yet been made about the future of IPPs or how it will affect existing IPPs, but it will be useful for Crispin Blunt and the other Ministry of Justice ministers to be reminded that MPs are following this and aware of the hardships and injustices of the present system. I hope others too will be writing to their MPs asking them to press Ken Clarke and Crispin Blunt to replace IPPs altogether and not to forget the plight of those already serving IPPs. Good luck!