Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection: extracts from Justice Ministry sentencing policy paper, 21 June 2011

Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection: extracts from “Ministry of Justice:  Breaking the Cycle: Government Response”, 21 June 2011 (emphases added).  Full text at:

Indeterminate Sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection

30. … Custodial sentences: Mandatory life sentences for murder are an essential part of the sentencing framework. There are no plans to change this. Similarly, the determinate custodial sentence will remain for the majority of offenders who do not attract life sentences. We are, however, considering several important reforms:

  • creating a new offence with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 6 months for adults, to send a clear message to those who possess a knife to threaten and endanger;
  • conducting an urgent review of sentencing for serious sexual and violent offenders. Consultation highlighted numerous weaknesses with the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection. It has never worked as Parliament intended, creating instead a flawed system, which is not well understood by the public. We will conduct an urgent review with a view to replacing the current IPP regime with a much tougher determinate sentencing framework – which would be better understood by the public, and command greater confidence. The review will also cover Detention for Public Protection, the equivalent sentence to an IPP for juveniles;
  • providing courts with greater discretion in using suspended sentences so that they are able to suspend a sentence for a custodial period of up to two years, choose whether or not to impose community requirements, and have the additional options of imposing a fine for breach; and
  • legislating to remove some of the statutory restrictions in the use of fixed term recall and executive re-release to reduce unnecessary use of Parole Board resources. […]
  • Reducing the number of Foreign National Offenders: foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes should be removed. We already have schemes underway which support this objective and are continuing to build on them to further reduce the numbers of foreign nationals in the justice system:
  • prisoner transfer arrangements, which ensure that EU nationals sentenced here serve their sentences in their country of origin, will come into force from December 2011;
  • deporting foreign national prisoners on indeterminate sentences once they have served their minimum custodial term; and
  • we are piloting the use of simple cautions to divert from prosecution foreign nationals who do not have leave to stay in the UK and have committed certain crimes, on condition that they leave the UK. We will extend this through legislation to conditional cautions.


We are conducting the IPP review with a view to replacing the current IPP regime with a much tougher determinate sentencing framework which includes:

  • an increased number of serious offenders would receive life sentences – with mandatory life sentences for the most serious repeat offenders;
  • it would be less open to challenge in the courts than the IPP system;
  • serious sexual and violent offenders would spend at least two-thirds of their sentence in prison, where they can’t pose a risk to the public, rather than being automatically released halfway through their sentence – and they would only ever be released before the end of their sentence if the Parole Board are satisfied that it is safe to do so;
  • there would be compulsory programmes for dangerous offenders while they are in prison, to make them change their ways and not just commit more crimes when they are released.
  • We will also review the Parole Board arrangements for the rehabilitation of those with IPPs, to ensure that real work is done to reform offenders while in prison.

Following the conclusion of our review, we will bring forward government amendments to the Bill in the autumn. In the meantime, IPPs will continue to be available to the courts as they are now.


…. 32. We have introduced legislation to remove the bulk of operational complexity from release and recall decisions and to simplify other elements of sentencing law, making it easier for courts and practitioners to sentence and manage offenders. The Bill will:

  • ensure that all future sentences are subject to a single set of release arrangements, regardless of the date on which the offence was committed;
  • consolidate the various existing release provisions;
  • make the process for calculating remand time more straightforward and efficient by making it a simple administrative process;
  • create a single set of rules for the operation of Home Detention Curfew;
  • remove some of the current statutory restrictions to allow greater professional discretion to decide when lower risk prisoners who have been recalled to prison may be re-released on licence; and
  • repeal unimplemented legislation that does nothing but complicate the sentencing framework.


Extracts on other aspects of sentencing:

We are not aiming to cut the prison population – and we are clear that there must always be places for those that judges sentence – but we will manage a stable, effective system rather than undermining it by endlessly and irresponsibly inflating prison numbers for their own sake.

We must learn from past mistakes. We will change our whole approach to rehabilitation so that we reward and pay only for what works in delivering reduced levels of crime. Prisons will be judged on how effectively they stop their prisoners offending again.


6. Our ambition is to transform prisons into industrious places of hard work. We will:

  • create a working week of up to 40 hours for prisoners;
  • focus the daily regime around work;
  • ensure prison work is sustainable and self-financing; and
  • focus education and training in prisons on equipping offenders to work, and link work activity to qualifications and employment opportunities on release, enabling offenders to be productive members of society, not a burden on the state.


Non-custodial sentences need to be tough and demanding. For too long, they have fallen short of what is required. Over 10% of community orders contain only a ‘supervision’ requirement (in other words, meetings with a probation officer). We aim to improve these sentences so they better punish, control and reform offenders. We will not push for community sentences to be used instead of prison – instead, we will transform community orders into more credible punishments that stop offenders getting to the point where custody is the only option.