Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPPs) once more (with update 25 June 2010)

In August 2007, nearly three years ago, I wrote (again) in this blog about the scandal of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPPs), under which people sent to prison for, often, quite minor offences, can’t be released, even after they have served the ‘punishment’ part of their sentences, until they can convince a Parole Board that they won’t reoffend when they leave jail.  That post has now attracted almost 150 ‘comments‘ , very many of them expressing anguish at the impossibility of knowing when a beloved husband, partner, son or brother will be released from prison — often expressing, indeed, the fear that he might never be released.  In the same period, all the major UK organisations working for the reform of our crime and prison laws have condemned the IPP system as unjust, inhumane and a waste of public money.

The change of government last month (May 2010) has brought a ray of hope that this indefensible system might soon be abolished.  Yesterday I submitted the following letter to the Guardian for publication:


Polly Toynbee is right to point to the obscene waste of public money involved in short-term prison sentences which achieve nothing (Forget being tough, it’s time to get realistic on crime, Comment & debate, 22 June).  She might also have mentioned the folly, waste and injustice of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPPs), which currently add massively to shameful overcrowding in our prisons. They waste public money on a vast scale by keeping in prison thousands of
people who have served their sentences imposed for punishment, rehabilitation and deterrence but who can’t prove to a Parole Board that they won’t reoffend if released, often because there are no places for them on the behaviour courses which they need to attend as a virtual condition for release.

These people are in preventive detention, being punished for future offences they haven’t committed, often with no hope of release, fearing that they are in prison for life, having already been punished for often quite minor offences.  The onus is on them to prove a negative about the future, which is conceptually impossible as well as reversing the normal onus of proof.  The proportion of IPPers so far released is minuscule.  Justice Department ministers of the new government have  acknowledged that the system is unacceptable: Crispin Blunt told parliament on 15 June that “We have 6,000 IPP prisoners, well over 2,500 of whom have exceeded their tariff point. Many cannot get on courses because our prisons are wholly overcrowded and unable to address offending behaviour. That is not a defensible position.

It’s inhumane, unjust and a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money.  All parties should now insist that the system is swept away and those IPPers who have served their minimum sentences should be released forthwith, either unconditionally or on licence. Here’s a useful cut in government spending that will benefit everyone.

Yours sincerely
Brian Barder
22 June 2010

A version of this letter is published in today’s Guardian (scroll down to the third letter on the web page), but so indiscriminately ‘edited’ that many of the main points I had hoped to make have been amputated (indeterminate sentences are not even identified as ‘IPPs’ in the published version!).  Still, what was published is probably better than nothing.

Recently Michael Robinson, a partner in a firm of solicitors with extensive experience of IPPs and the injustices they inflict, wrote to the new prime minister:

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Cost to the Tax Payer – The IPP Sentence

Britain is overwhelmed with debt. As the incoming Prime Minister you have the unenviable task of reducing the vast deficit left by the last government. It is time to cut waste from areas in which money is being spent for no ascertainable benefit.

In March 2010 the total prison population stood at 85,608, which is approximately 800 more than the highest figure predicted for March 2010[1]. The prisons are, by anyone’s estimation, full. A very significant number of these prisoners are serving Imprisonment for Public Protection. These prisoners are given sentences by judges who set their minimum term – the ‘punishment’ period – at half of the length of a determinate sentence.

In reality, the expiry of the minimum term is almost never the date on which the prisoner is released. In fact only about 1% of all IPP prisoners have been released and have subsequently stayed out of prison. This means, for example, that someone sentenced to a 12 month IPP in November 2006 (the equivalent to a two year determinate sentence) could technically have been released in November 2007 but could still be in prison today. To date they would have served three years and six months, the equivalent of a seven-year determinate sentence.

There are approximately 6,000[2] IPP prisoners in custody, and the figure is rising at a rate of around 70 per month[3]. With the average cost of keeping a prisoner in jail estimated at £40,000 per year this equates to a total of £240m per year for this class of prisoner alone, and which will continue to rise under the current system.

In order to have any chance of being released on parole, these prisoners are wholly reliant on demonstrating their reduction in risk while in prison. These prisoners are unable to access the courses they need because of the continuing problem of woefully inadequate funding. In a shockingly high number of cases, these people are simply not being given the opportunity to earn their release.

The previous government admitted that there were no centrally available reliable figures on the number of IPPs waiting to access courses.[4] To compensate for the overcrowding, they embarked on a program of early release for determinate sentenced prisoners. There is a clear contradiction here which, we submit, cannot have been the intention of the sentencing judiciary.

Rather than being saddled with this enormously inefficient, not to mention ‘inhumane’[5], regime we implore you to make your pledged wholesale review of sentencing, including the IPP, a priority. So much money is wasted currently holding individuals in prison who have, because of a lack of availability of courses, been unable to demonstrate that they are no longer dangerous to the satisfaction of the Parole Board.

We are not suggesting that offenders should not be punished for their offences: On the contrary, we wholeheartedly support your proposals for mini-max sentences. If prisoners have definite dates for their earliest and latest release this will give them an impetus to want to earn release as soon as possible. This will encourage good behaviour amongst all prisoners, rather than just those serving indeterminate sentences who are scared to ‘step out of line’ while those currently serving determinate sentences aren’t as adversely affected if they are punished for misbehaviour.

Mini-max sentences will reduce pressure on the operation of the Prison Service as a whole by promoting good order inside prisons; they will enable this government to budget more accurately in terms of the annual cost of the Prison Service; and will still act as a sufficient deterrent in terms of serious crime.

The changes to IPP in 2008 did not go far enough – and there are many, many short tariff IPP prisoners still languishing in jail who were sentenced under the earlier regime. Only abolition of the IPP will put a stop to this wasteful expenditure.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Robinson

[1] Prison Population Projections 2009-2015
[2] Pre-election Conservative line on IPP
[3] Pre-election Conservative line on IPP
[4] Jack Straw, House of Commons Hansard Written Answers 16th June 2009
[5] Independent Monitoring Board

Under the Conservative-LibDem coalition agreement the government is to set up a review of sentencing policy.  This is to report by October.  Taking into account the parliamentary summer recess, that doesn’t leave all that much time to make sure that the sentencing review will conclude that the whole IPP régime should be wound up (there should be no attempt to ‘improve’ it, since it’s inherently flawed) and that all IPPers should be automatically released at the end of their tariffs (‘minimum sentences’).  There may be a case for introducing ‘mini-max’ sentences; but that’s a separate issue which should be independently debated.

If you agree, therefore, that it’s time to get rid of IPPs as a blot on our justice system and a wicked waste of money, please write to or email your MP, urging that the sentencing review should include a review of IPPs and that this should lead to their outright abolition.  Ask your MP to make urgent representations accordingly to the Justice Secretary (Kenneth Clarke).  Please give your reasons in your own words — but then I recommend that you also attach or enclose a copy of the letter I submitted to the Guardian (the full text as submitted, quoted above) if your MP is Labour, LibDem, Green or a nationalist party member):  or, if your MP is a Conservative, I suggest that you attach or enclose a copy of Mr Robinson’s letter to the prime minister, also quoted above.  By all means also invite him or her to read and especially some of the heart-wrenching comments underneath it.

This is an opportunity to rid ourselves of a system which is unjust, which causes untold fear, misery and anguish, and which wastes millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, all to no purpose whatever.  The opportunity may be unrepeatable.  Please take ten minutes now to help ensure that the government and parliament do the right, necessary thing, soon.

Update (25 June 2010):  A shortened version of this post is now published on the left-of-centre website, Labour List:  you can read it here.  It’s already attracting an interesting and sympathetic debate in comments, and I hope it might prompt many more letters to MPs while there’s still time to influence the government’s review of sentencing policy.  Thanks to those who have already been in touch with their MPs in response to this Ephems post (see comments below).


32 Responses

  1. Patricia O says:

    To encourage others, and thanks to Brian, we  just wanted to say we have posted today our letter to the local MP, urging him to contact the Secretary of State for Justice and ask him if  IPPs will be considered in the forthcoming review: also, as the new government recognises the situation is intolerable, what does he intend to do about it, and, is he aware of the ‘short’ tariffers, (i.e. those with a minimum tariff of less than 2 years), who probably would not have even been given an IPP, under the 2008 Amendment of the Criminal Justice Act?  Tomorrow, our son will have exactly doubled his 18 months minimum tariff, and there is no prospect of his release.  He has been told it could be November 2011 before his next review.  He is one of many.  The situation is wrong.  Please, please, please write to your MPs, we beg you.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this quick response and for your moving comment, Patricia. I hope that many others will follow suit and write to their MPs — a much more effective approach, incidentally, than writing direct to the Secretary of State for Justice or his Parliamentary Under-Secretary, since letters sent direct to ministers tend to get only a stock draft reply from an official in the department. Letters from MPs, by contrast, are almost always seen personally by the minister and the minister generally replies personally to letters from MPs, of whatever party.

  2. ObiterJp says:

    Dear Brian
    I have put a post on my blog directing readers to your excellent article above.  Every little helps.  This is an iniquitous system.

    Brian writes: Very many thanks for your extremely helpful and informative post in support of this article over at ‘Law and Lawyers’. The more blogs and individuals publicise this little-known issue and appeal for it to be put right, the more likely it is that something will at last be done about it.

    I have mentioned in an up-date to the post above that Labour List has helpfully published an abbreviated version of this post with an appeal to Labour List readers to press their MPs to ask the Justice Secretary to ensure that IPPs are included in the terms of reference of the sentencing policy review and that this leads to their total abolition. There are already some sympathetic comments on the Labour List piece.

  3. Bryan Cartledge says:

    Brian- This is just to confirm that I have e-mailed my MP, Mark Field (Con) urging him to impress upon the Secretary of State for Justice the force of the arguments which you and Mr. Robinson have so eloquently deployed.
    Good luck with your campaign.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Bryan. It’s an endorsement that I particularly value. (See

  4. Ian Graham says:

    Dear Brian
    I found this blog sufficiently disturbing to send me back to your original blog, and a selection of the comments on it.

    I am still far short of your degree of outrage. Most systems can be improved, and one can find injustice pretty much anywhere one looks, and this seems (with respect) not the most compelling thing to be majoring on at this moment….. One thing I find striking in what I have read, from you and others, is the low level of reference to what the convictions were for. And while there are some ‘hard cases’, I don’t get the sense that unsafe convictions are the root of your concern?

    Is it fair to ask what (supposing you had the power to change the system according to your principles) you would regard as an acceptable rate of re-offending for those released from this trap?

    Ian Graham

    Brian writes: Thank you for this challenging comment, Ian. I’m not sure where to begin. This is bound to be a long response, so please make sure you’re sitting comfortably.

    First, then: The case against IPPs doesn’t depend on the nature of the original offence for which an IPP was passed. In any case, the gravity of the sentence, where the judge has discretion in calculating it, will depend not only on the inherent seriousness of the offence but also on the individual circumstances of each particular offence — whether there are extenuating circumstances and if so what they are, the character of the offender, his previous convictions if any, his apparent contrition if he admits his guilt, whether a harsh sentence is likely to deter others from committing the same offence, for how long it’s fair and necessary to take the offender out of circulation so as to protect the public from him, and indeed the judge’s assessment of the potential for his rehabilitation in prison and the extent of the risk that he will reoffend on his release. All these considerations will be factored in to any ordinary discretionary sentence. If the judge seems to have got it wrong, either the convicted offender or the attorney-general on behalf of the public can apply for leave to appeal against it to a higher court. On what basis, therefore, can anyone assert the need for all the apparatus of IPPs to be piled on top of what is already embodied in an ordinary discretionary sentence? — especially when the whole IPP system is so cruelly weighted against the IPP prisoner in flagrant contravention of several elementary principles of justice: that the onus of proof of justification for keeping anyone behind bars after he has paid his debt to society for a past offence should rest on the authorities and not on the prisoner: that preventive detention has no place in a fair justice system: and that no-one who has completed his punishment should thereafter continue to be incarcerated without trial, without being charged for any new alleged offence, and without any assurance of eventual release?

    The possibility of wrongful conviction is, as you rightly say, not central to the case against IPPs. But it certainly reinforces it. The system assumes, as it’s bound to do in practice, that everyone in prison has been rightly convicted. It follows from that assumption that any prisoner who persists in asserting his innocence has failed to “come to terms with his offence”, has not been rehabilitated, and is therefore more likely than not to reoffend if released. But the assumption of universal guilt, and the requirement to admit it, are both flat contrary to common sense. It’s obvious from the number of successful appeals against conviction, sometimes years after the original trial, that some people are wrongly convicted, and that self-respect alone will usually prompt such people to persist in refusing to admit their guilt. But in practice, although not in theory, parole boards won’t agree to release an IPP or any other prisoner who refuses to admit his guilt, express contrition and promise not to reoffend. Clearly this puts a wrongly convicted prisoner in an intolerable and agonising dilemma: does he confess to a crime he didn’t commit in the hope of gaining his release, but with the label of self-confessed criminal on his record? Or does he persist in his assertion of innocence, in the hope of eventually clearing his name, but thereby risking being unjustly incarcerated, not just for a few years or even decades, but perhaps genuinely until he dies? At least with an ordinary determinate sentence he knows the date, however distant, when he can be sure of release even if he has continued to protest his innocence. Not so with IPPs. That uncertainty about whether one will ever be released is a form of mental torture which can even destroy a person’s sanity — and that’s regardless of the actual guilt or innocence of the person concerned.

    You ask the seemingly reasonable question: “What (supposing you had the power to change the system according to your principles) you would regard as an acceptable rate of re-offending for those released from this trap?” But this is a little like asking me when I stopped beating my wife. Obviously there’s no such thing as an acceptable rate of reoffending: every new offence committed by anyone (IPPer or not) after release from jail represents a failure, not just of the IPP system, but of the whole prison system itself. One of the main purposes, indeed the main justification, of depriving offenders of their liberty is to rehabilitate them — i.e. to tackle the roots of their criminal behaviour, help them to understand the consequences of what they have done and the underlying causes of it, and so to change their mind-set that they are far less likely to repeat that anti-social behaviour on their release. Yet the statistics show that the rate of reoffending after being in prison is alarmingly high — and this has almost nothing to do with IPPers reoffending, for the simple reason that so far only some 1 per cent of IPP prisoners have been released, far too small a sample to be statistically significant. Obviously there are many reasons, some complex, for this failure to rehabilitate so many offenders while they are in prison. These include: gross overcrowding in our prisons, causing prison officers to be so over-worked just keeping their prison going that there’s no time for focusing on individual prisoners’ needs and behaviour; the huge number of short sentences passed by the courts, so short that there’s no time to let the prisoner attend behavioural or other courses or to receive any individual attention; doubts about the statistical effectiveness of existing prison courses in reducing the rates of reoffending; the widespread public attitude of vindictiveness towards convicted prisoners, encouraged by the tabloids, which makes it difficult to treat prisoners in a civilised, humane way likely to support rehabilitation; and the clear evidence that offenders are much likelier to go straight if they are dealt with in the community on community service orders and under the supervision of probation officers and other social workers than if they are sent to jail. But when you superimpose the IPP system on that complex of factors affecting ordinary straightforward imprisonment for fixed terms, you actually aggravate the problem and send the reoffending rate further up, not down. IPPers who have served their tariffs but who can’t meet the almost impossible conditions for release simply aggravate prison over-crowding, one of the main factors militating against rehabilitation for all prisoners, not just IPPers; their sense of injustice and resentment against society when they have done their bird but are still kept behind bars makes their rehabilitation far more difficult; the cost to the taxpayer of keeping them unnecessarily and indefinitely in prison, compared with the cost of dealing with them in the community, is exorbitant; and they are using up prison resources that ought to be devoted to those actually undergoing punishment, not those growing thousands held in jail in indefinite preventive detention.

    So to answer your questions: the only rate of reoffending at which the system can justifiably aim is zero, although we know that that’s impossible in practice; ergo, the aim should be to reduce reoffending rates to the lowest achievable level. At present the overall prison system is a flagrant failure in reducing reoffending, for the reasons described above. The IPP system adds to the failure of rehabilitation by adding literally thousands of people to the prison population who should have been released after serving the punishment part of their sentences, and whose likelihood of reoffending would be significantly reduced by dealing with them in the community, not in prison, once they have served the punishment part of their sentences in jail. There’s no way of reducing these negative consequences of IPPs in relation to reoffending rates by making a few changes here and there in the IPP system. It’s inherently flawed: ineffective in protecting society — indeed, adding to the dangers to society from reoffending by ordinary ex-prisoners; unjust, in punishing people for future offences that they haven’t committed and may never commit; and a perverse reflection of an extreme and irrational aversion to risk which has invaded so many areas of our lives in recent years. Sometimes the cost to justice, and to the ordinary activities of life in the 21st century, of trying to avoid all kinds of risk is much greater than the cost of accepting that some risks are unavoidable, whatever we do to minimise them. The only way to be sure of preventing criminal and other antisocial behaviour is to lock up the whole population for life. That’s the underlying logic of IPPs.

    I hope I have convinced you that this is a real and pressing problem, affecting not just the (literally) thousands of people serving IPPs in our prisons, but all prisoners everywhere, indeed affecting society as a whole. The fact that other even more pressing problems exist in every area of public life is no excuse for failure to tackle this one. Above all, it’s urgently necessary to ensure that the imminent review of sentencing policy, due to report in October, covers IPPs in its terms of reference and is authorised to recommend that the whole rotten system should be abolished. Please press your MP to seek confirmation from the Justice Secretary that this will happen.

  5. Dear Ian,
    Just to add to Brian’s post above: There are a considerable number of people who were given the IPP sentence with extremely short tariffs, 28 days being the shortest recorded (pre 2008). The sentencing judges considered that the punitive period should in these cases be short, after which the prisoner would become eligible for release. Because of the lack of resources for risk-reduction courses in prisons, a huge number of IPP prisoners remain in prison long after tariff expiry, yet without any opportunity to prove that they are no longer a danger to the public. That is not to say that all such prisoners are no longer dangerous: but that that ones who are no longer dangerous are not able to demonstrate it. As Law LJ said, the failure to allow IPP prisoners the opportunity to demonstrate their risk reduction is like ‘asking how many miles an army has marched through the night when there are no orders for it to march at all.’
    There has been considerable confusion over this sentence, which had the effect of over-use by the judiciary since its introduction in April 2005. We know of cases in which prisoners have been given IPPs for setting fire to a wheelie bin, or for cutting someone’s hair in an argument. We are not saying that these crimes should go unpunished, but that when considered in terms of parity these people are potentially serving the equivalent of 8 or 9 year determinate sentences, which is more than others serve for manslaughter, GBH, rape, indecent assault, robbery and substantial drug offences.

    Brian writes: Very many thanks for this extremely informative comment, which I think definitively demolishes any suggestion that IPPs are awarded only for very serious offences. I am taking the liberty of reproducing it in the comments on my similar but shorter post on Labour List where this very question has been raised by someone who was involved in the introduction of IPPs as a home office official.

  6. Jo D. says:

    To echo what Patricia O. has written above, I also know someone on this grossly inhumane sentence. 
    He was sentenced to a tariff of less than two years in 2005, and is of the opinion, as are many others in a similar situation of having gone many years past their tariff, that they will never be released from prison.
    He successfully completed all his courses many years ago, has had consistently had good reports and is considered by probation and the prison to be safe to be released. However, because the parole board require this non-specific and intangible ‘proof’ that he will never commit any offence again, he is unable to be released.

    Before April 2005 and after July 2008 his offence wouldn’t have been considered serious enough for him to be given an IPP, so he is receiving an excessive punishment because he committed his offence before the government at the time acknowledged the sentence should be used only for more serious offenders.

    The nature of the sentence is such that the parole board are under no obligation to release any IPP into the community, (and after 5 years, only releasing 1% is close to this), so successfully completing courses and having good reports in no way guarantees release..

    As far as courses go, the high level of illiteracy and mental health problems amongst prisoners means many are not eligible to complete offending behaviour courses. There is no evidence anywhere that these courses prevent re-offending, and as mentioned above do not guarantee release by the parole board. So at £5000 for each prisoner for each course, this may not be the best way to spend the taxpayers money, when basic education and work skills would seem a better investment.

    As for waiting time for courses, a prisoner, known to many, who was also given a short tariff in 2005, successfully completed everything on his sentence plan but was told at his parole hearing he had to do a ‘Healthy Relationship’ course. It was expected, at the time, to take a couple of years to get him transferred to the prison that ran the course and there was a couple of years on the waiting list to get on the course when he got to that prison. Expecting to do an extra 4 years on top of a short tariff, to do a course that can be done in the community, seems an extortionate waste of money and is probably happening to many other prisoners  now. 
    This particular prisoner died before he had chance to even be transferred.
    I would urge everyone who feels this is a very poor reflection of British justice to write to their MP’s asking that this confusing and ‘Kafkaesque’ sentence is abolished and a more coherent and honest system is adopted.

  7. Done.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Barrie, for this confirmation that you have written to your MP as recommended. You are the unchallenged winner of the Brevity Prize for conveying so much information in a single 4-letter word. (I suppose you could yet be robbed of your accolade by someone posting the comment “I 2”?)

  8. Anon says:

    Comment received by e-mail:

    This is really good from you.   I note that Ian points out the lack of reference to the ‘crimes’.   He should be able to work out that the degree of severity of the crime is reflected in the length of tariff given by the judge!   Not only are IPPs all the things we have all said:  there are still more than 1,000 people inside who received less than 2 year tariffs BEFORE the change in the law [in 2008] and one could reasonably expect that these would be released since the change in the law.   Even the Lord Chief Justice has said that this particular group should be reviewed and released if they do not represent a significant risk.   Thank you for continuing with your efforts.

  9. Ian Graham says:

    Dear Brian
    I’m posting again, really, just to acknowledge your long response to my earlier questions. And I would like to say, without being too creeping, that I am very clear that our society is immeasurably the richer for including people like you, who bring both passion and vast experience to bear in the service of causes such as this.
    And, yes, at the level of information, you convince me that IPPs are seriously underspecified, underfunded, and inadequately implemented. But is not that the case for the criminal justice system as a whole? Is any of it fit for purpose ? One would hope that the front end – the trial process – is the best of it, or we might as well turn the whole thing over to the National Lottery.
    I’m afraid more widely I remain unpersuaded to your view. And most sharply, I do not think that indeterminate sentences are intrinsically the devil’s own work. Indeed, if any government were ever to contemplate root and branch renewal, which is surely what is really needed, could not (a) an absolute gold-standard trial system justify (b) a clear statutory declaration that prison terms would henceforth be imposed solely in the cause of public protection, and that (c) ALL custodial sentences would be indeterminate BUT (d) with an absolute (i.e. statutory) guarantee that every prisoner would have his day(s) of review in court – literally, in open court – according to one of a range of scales of frequency………..I could go on elaborating, but I think you will get my drift. Would not such a system be likely to be at once more humane and more effective than what we currently have ?


    Ian G.

    Brian writes: Thank you for these very kind words. We’re agreed, I think, that the way IPPs are administered is disgraceful. To insist that IPP prisoners must attend certain courses before they can be considered for release, and then fail to ensure that all IPP prisoners can attend these courses without delay and then have access to a parole board immediately on expiry of their tariffs, is like something from the Gulag out of Kafka. How home office and now Justice Department officials and ministers and the MPs who are supposed to monitor their policies and actions can be so cruelly incompetent and indifferent to the most elementary demands of natural justice I find it impossible to comprehend. They deserve every word of the excoriating judgement of the Law Lords when this outrage was brought to their attention.

    On the wider questions of principle involved in the IPP system, I fear we shall just have to agree to differ, as decent people of good will sometimes do. Preventive detention divorced from retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence seems to me abhorrent and totally alien to traditional British ideas of justice. (I even have my doubts about the acceptability of retribution as an ingredient in punishment, but that raises a whole host of other questions!) So I wouldn’t favour the kind of régime that you envisage, even if it were to be flawlessly administered.

    As for our system of justice overall, I agree that it’s deeply flawed, chiefly in aspects of our penal system. Far too many people are sent to prison unnecessarily, our prisons are grossly overcrowded as a result, the overcrowding in turn leads to effectively inhumane régimes in many prisons with no opportunity for inmates to lead tolerably civilised (and civilising) lives, and at every stage of the justice and penal systems there are far too many unacceptable delays. The prison and probation services are clearly under-funded and over-loaded, as is the case with many other branches of social work. The whole of society is damaged by these failings. Unfortunately any kind of civilising reform of the penal system is vigorously opposed by our atrocious tabloids which think that ignorant and reactionary vindictiveness is a wizard way to sell newspapers and attract lucrative advertising. Even more unfortunately, they are probably right. Add to this evil brew the cowardice of our politicians of all parties, afraid to face up to the tabloids and to do the right thing regardless, and you have a system in which human beings are treated little better than scum.

  10. Mary says:

    I agree with what Ian is saying about Brian – the world is a better place for him and others like him.   I sense a rather ‘flippant’ attitude from Ian regarding IPPs.   If he had to suffer  a loved one being incarcerated for 5 years, having received an 18 month tariff on an IPP then he may be more understanding.   The tariff in the case I refer to was  for a second offence – the first one being 25 years before that with no offences in between.   I would ask people to consider how they would feel if their loved one was imprisoned with a few months (or less than 2 years) tariff and then every single day for 5 years or more they had to wonder if their loved one would ever be freed.   It is obviously not an easy thing to consider but just try to imagine it – trying imagining  your son/husband/brother living in prison away from you for years and you never know when, or if, he will return.   Let me tell you – it destroys you, whole families and friends are all destroyed by that situation.   The prisoner becomes suicidal, has low self-esteem, is treated inhumanely and has no future or hope.   IPPs destroy everything for families and friends.  If judges believe someone has committed an offence that requires years in prison then they should give that sentence and not an open-ended one that relies on an ineffective and useless system – which incidentally hardly ever releases anyone.  

    Brian writes: Thank you, Mary, for this eloquent description of the wretched and often disproportionate consequences of an IPP. I would only say that I don’t myself see anything flippant in Ian’s comments; it’s not flippant, clearly, to attach importance to the concept of protecting society from repeat offenders whom the system judges to be likely to re-offend again. But Ian recognises, as you and I do, that the way the system is administered involves gross injustice, even if we disagree about the inherent injustice of IPPs however efficiently administered.

    I’m not sure how far it’s right to blame the judges for handing down IPPs in the kind of circumstances you describe. If the offence is one of those listed as requiring an IPP and it’s a second offence, I don’t know if the judge has any discretion in the matter, apart from his ability to set a shorter or longer tariff. You probably know the answer to that one.

  11. ObiterJ says:

    As promised, I posted on my blog about IPP and the post attracted some interesting comments.  There is one in particular which tells how difficult it is to satisfy the “risk assessment” process.  Worth a read.
    Under the original (2003 Act) IPP scheme, the judge had a duty to impose this sentence if the criteria were met.  Since the implementation of the 2008 Act scheme, the judge has a discretion.  Under the 2008 scheme (unlike its predecessor) the present offence must attract at least a 2 year term of imprisonment and the person must have been previously convicted of at least one of a list of offences.  The list is much shorter than the 2003 Act scheme.
    Given that there does not appear to be the resources to provide the necessary rehabilitative courses and assessments, the government will have no option but to abandon this form of sentence.   However, even if the resources were there, there is a very serious concern about the forms of risk assessment undertaken and whether they produce accurate results.  It would be entirely preferable to bring these sentences to an end.

    Brian writes: Thank you very much for this and for the very useful further information on your own website. I am disappointed however by some of the comments there, including some by other lawyers, who seem not to understand the serious objections of principle to the whole concept of preventive detention, which is what IPPs are. Your and Mary’s replies there are most helpful.

  12. Jo D. says:

    I was about to post similar information to ObiterJ above, but to further add to it.
    When the person I know was sentenced to an IPP (2005), the judge said in his comments that under the (as then) new legislation he had to impose an IPP, because his offence was one of the 110+ offences deemed to warrant an IPP.
    He was given a tariff of a few months based on sentencing guidelines taking into consideration mitigating factors in his offence (and halving what would have been given as a determinate sentence).
    As this seems straightforward, it is difficult to understand why the previous government were so surprised so many IPP sentences had been handed out, and seemed to have ‘caught them out’.
    What is further more difficult to understand is that after more than 2 years of it being in force, David Blunkett, the architect of this sentence, insisted it was never meant for those who warranted tariffs of less than 2 years and was only meant to be used for the most serious offenders.
    Obviously this was never made clear but there are nearly 1,500 prisoners with less than 2 year tariffs, still in prison paying the price for this.

    I believe under the 2008 Act the list was reduced to 11 offences, and as mentioned, the judge had discretion in whether to hand out this sentence. There are some judges who now refuse to hand out IPP’s, even though the criteria are met, because they are strongly opposed to how this sentence is implemented.

    As far as risk assessment goes, the person I know will not even make a complaint when money sent in to him goes missing, because he feels the parole board will use this as another reason to keep him in, i.e. ‘not being able to cope when things are going wrong’. This is because he has met with quite a few IPP’s where making complaints in prison has been used by parole boards as a reason to not give parole. Most with experience of parole boards are almost too scared to say anything to anyone. 

    As Mary points out above, they do become suicidal but would never ask for help within the prison because it would count against them at a parole hearing.

    I think this sentence is going to produce some very traumatised and defeated people who have learned not to ask for help, not to show any emotion and feel they have no control over their lives. 

    Brian writes: Thanks, Jo, for this further information. It is almost beyond belief that this monstrosity should have been introduced in the first place, and that even the attempt to reform it in 2008 should have been been so comprehensively bungled. It seems increasingly obvious that the sentencing review should look into all these disastrous consequences of an ill-conceived and atrociously administered system and that it should recommend its complete abandonment.

  13. Bob says:

    Having been AWOL from this topic since March for various reasons, reading what has been written since then I feel the need to stick in a gentle oar here and there.
    We’ve been raging about IPPs for three years now, and I think our language has got a bit elastic during that time. For example IPPs are not awarded ‘ for often quite minor offences’…. But they are awarded ‘for REPEATED quite minor offences’. Spot the difference? (I’ll list some of these offences later….And there aren’t many really minor ones, when one comes to look.)  Blunkett created a ghoul, but we have to describe it properly or our arguments against him lose some of their punch. Similarly, all the parameters appertaining to an ordinary discretionary sentence awarded for, say, burglary or theft  –  i.e. punishment, rehabilitation, keeping the public safe, admitting guilt, etc – are not adequate, according to the CJA 2003, in relation to a prisoner with an IPP sentence. This is because he will have committed his violent/sexual offence at least once previously to earn his IPP; so will he do it again if  released? Will the public be safe? I don’t defend the preventive detention  of IPP-ers, but it was the repeated nature of their violent /sexual crime that sparked Blunkett’s crusade against them. We have to remember his arguments if we are to prove how invalid they are. And another small point; on October 17th 2008 I wrote that it wasn’t essential for IPP prisoners to do Offending Behaviour Programmes (OBPs) in order to be released on licence by the Parole Board. For what it’s worth – i.e. not much, judging by the minuscule number released so far after actually doing OBPs (133 by June 4th 2010, of whom 33 have already been recalled !) – they can be released on observational evidence from their officers, counsellors and other staff. (As a member of the IMB in a London prison I got this from a horse’s mouth at the Ministry of Justice.) Although doing OBPs is obviously a safer bet.

    Ian Graham wondered what sort of crimes IPP-ers might have committed. Ian, there’s the list of 153 of them under Schedule 14, Section 219 of the CJA 2003. It’s a bit late at night now, but I’ll cite a few, with their numbers as they appear on the list. You’ll see how wildly they vary:
    Nos 1-65 describe violent crimes: 1. manslaughter, 2. kidnapping, 4.soliciting murder, 7. malicious wounding, 18. assaulting an officer preserving a wreck…28. Use of firearm to resist arrest, 37. hijacking, 48. causing death by dangerous driving, 57. putting people in fear of violence, 61. female genital mutilation….
    Nos 66-153 are sexual offences, many of them very derivative: No. 66. rape, 70. intercourse with girl under 13, 71. intercourse with girl under 16, 76. indecent assault on a woman, 77. indecent asault on a man, 92. keeping a brothel….then a whole series of 30 or 40 crimes of  inciting, forcing, luring various categories of children and people into sexual activities of various types…..then…149. exposure… 150. voyeurism, 151. intercourse with an animal…..
    The mind wilts.
    Whoever thought all this up!?
    But I haven’t yet got on to the numbers currently held under IPP law (6189 on June 4th 2010 – broadly as Michael Robinson said) or those held  past their tariff ( 2468 in January 2010), or the failure of the 2008 CJA amendment to make much difference – or the disgraceful business as a whole, which is driving so many people to despair and, ironically enough, is hated by the judges, who don’t even yet know how to handle IPP sentencing. ( This is a loose quotation from either Lord Ramsbotham or Lord Carlyle in the debate on abolishing IPPs, House of Lords, October 2009.)

    Might Ken Clarke actually prove to be the good fairy – looking to save money, as he clearly is, and deciding in his own inimitable way that IPPs are more trouble than they’re worth, so let’s get rid of them and save 6000 x £40,000…..!?

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Bob. Evidence in a number of the comments here and on my earlier post about IPPs provides good replies to your two principal reservations — see in particular this and this. Even if the category of offence earning an IPP is not inherently “quite minor”, a specific offence deemed by the sentencing judge to require only a 28-day tariff — IOW, the equivalent of a two-month determinate sentence of which only a half would actually be served — can only have been regarded as minor. Yet there are numerous IPPs from before the law was changed in 2008 in which the tariff was less than two years, and in some cases substantially less; and most of these have served those tariffs many times over and are still unable to secure their release. Jo testifies in her comment that —

    offence 57, … ‘Putting someone in fear of violence’, would account for why there are several prisoners serving an IPP for having heated arguments with their wife/partner in public (pre 2008), and these are the ones put forward for the ‘Healthy Relationships’ course, with a waiting list of several years.

    So I see no reason to modify my claim that IPPs have been awarded for quite minor offences, especially when many of those serving IPPs for such offences are still in prison long after their tariffs have been served.

    As for the difference between an offence and a repeated offence, so much depends on the reasons for the repetition, the prospects for changing the circumstances that have led to repetition, and the length of time between the original offence and its repetition (Jo mentions one case where more than 20 years had elapsed between the first and second offences) that it seems quite wrong to base the justification for an IPP on the proposition that he or she who repeats an offence once must be so likely to repeat it again as to warrant what amounts to a sentence of imprisonment for life as a form of preventive detention, not punishment. A drug addict is highly likely to repeat his drug-related offence as long as he remains addicted: but if treatment for his addiction on a community-based course — or even a prison-based course — succeeds, the likelihood of a repetition of the offence should be greatly reduced. The same goes for repeated offences rooted in homelessness, family problems, alcoholism, illiteracy making it virtually impossible to hold down a job, and innumerable other causes. Many of these contributory factors can in principle be tackled and changed. The very concept of an IPP denies that possibility, especially when IPPs contribute heavily to the prison overcrowding which in turn makes it effectively impossible to help prisoners to overcome the circumstances leading to their offences, whether repeated or not. Moreover, it’s impossible to defend the contrary proposition: that where the factors leading to repeated offending are in some cases not capable of being remedied, or unlikely to be so capable (such as mental illness, low intelligence, social environment), society is justified in keeping the offender in prison for the rest of his life — which is the logical consequence of the IPP idea. The fact of repetition is thus no kind of justification for the system.

    And finally, the fact of a repetition of an offence, the probable reasons for the offence and the repetition, and the prospects for changing those circumstances so as to reduce the likelihood of further repetition, are all factors that are already taken into account in fixing the length — or the minimum length — of any sentence: there’s no justification for adding on the extra hazard of an IPP with the burden of proof of future behaviour that it imposes on the offender. In short, it would be wrong and misleading to stress the element of repetition of an offence in the IPP system as if this constituted a kind of admission that the system is not so bad after all.

    In referring to the requirement that an IPP prisoner must have attended specified courses before the parole board will consider him for release, I have consistently made it clear that in theory this is not an absolute condition for release, but that in practice in very many cases, perhaps in most, it is.

    Of course I agree that it’s presentationally counter-productive to over-state one’s case in arguing for a reform; and that it’s necessary to understand an argument in order to refute it. But neither my posts, nor the numerous comments contributed to them here, nor my responses to them, have put forward arguments that the evidence doesn’t support; and it’s neither necessary nor feasible to re-state every single argument put forward by the originators of IPPs and their defenders in order to refute them. I think we are in close agreement about the injustice and indefensibility of the system and the need to abolish it. The immediate objectives seem to me clear: first, to try to ensure that the impending review of sentencing policy is required by its terms of reference to include IPPs in its remit: and secondly to persuade the review to recommend their abolition, not to resort to further tinkering. MPs seem to be the people best placed to achieve both these objectives. Let’s concentrate on that.

  14. ObiterJ says:

    Bob – the 2003 Act scheme was section 225 (for adult offenders) and section 226 for under 18s.  The list of specified offences was Schedule 15 and was, as you say, very lengthy.  Since the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, the offence being sentenced must merit at least 2 years imprisonment and there is a shorter list of specified offences in a new Schedule 15A.
    The way statutes are amended does not in any way assist understanding of the law.
    “Courses” are not legally required BUT the Parole Board has to operate on evidence.  This is why there is the emphasis on courses and formal documentation of participation etc.  The Parole Board is now, in effect, a form of “court” when it is making these decisions.  It is no longer a mere advisory body to a Minister.  For these reasons it will become necessary to alter the way in which the Parole Board itself operates.

    Brian writes: Many thanks. You make an extremely important point about the parole boards and the change in their functions since ministers lost the power to change sentences, approve recommendations for release on parole, etc. You are clearly right to point to the connection between this and the question of attendance at courses as effectively a condition for a decision to release an IPP prisoner. I suspect that an American court would rule that the parole board process is unconstitutional (under the US Constitution) because it denies offenders due process. I wonder if it would survive a challenge under the HRA or the European Convention on Human Rights — and whether such a challenge has ever been mounted?

  15. Jo D. says:

    Bob, good to see your return.

    Whilst David Blunkett’s crusade against repeated offenders might have sounded like a good idea to him at the time, it clearly lacked any understanding of the numbers or cost involved.
    Describing someone as a repeated violent offender, conjures up a different picture from someone who committed an offence as a juvenile which had the potential to harm others, and committing a second offence over 20 years later, which earns an IPP (pre 2008 reforms). 

    I notice offence 57. above ‘Putting someone in fear of violence’, would account for why there are several prisoners serving an IPP for having heated arguments with their wife/partner in public ( pre 2008), and these are the one’s put forward for the ‘Healthy Relationships’ course, with a waiting list of several years. This seems an extraordinary waste of money for a course that could be done in the community, and for the type of offence David Blunkett admitted he didn’t mean to include.

    I notice that on Brian’s link to the Labour List website above, the first comment states that the parole board were instructed in 1967 to release only 20% of those lifers going past their tariff, even if more meet the requirements for release. I would suggest from my previous post on barder/696, as there have consistently been only 3% of those IPP’s going past their tariff being released, that there may have been similar instructions given to the parole board.

    As the parole board are operating as a court they should be run as a court, so that it could be more clearly understood what their reasons are for deciding not to release someone, instead of the rather vague ‘not enough evidence’, without ever saying what would be enough evidence. Also that there is an independent record of what is actually said at a parole hearing.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Jo. You make a number of very telling points, both about the relative triviality of some offences that have earned IPPs in the past and about the far-fatched interpretation of “repeated offences” in some cases. I agree that the parole board procedures are quite inadequate for a quasi-judicial body empowered in effect to hand out custodial sentences on often quite inadequate evidence and in which the onus of proof is reversed.

  16. Hooky Walker says:

    Brian – This evening, 15 July, I spoke to my MP, Mark Field, unaware at the time that Bryan Cartledge had e-mailed him. He is sympathetic.

    Brian writes: Thank you very much, Hooky. I understand that the last opportunity before the autumn for oral questions to ministers of the Ministry of Justice will be next Tuesday, 20 July. I hope any MPs contemplating a question about IPPs will put them down urgently, in time for them to be answered on Tuesday when they can still influence the forthcoming sentencing review.

  17. S says:

    I have emailed my MP  and was quite surprised to get a quick response.Judging how expeditiously the Coalition has worked so far I would have thought it would be a matter of days.Nonetheless,I recieved the email to say my views would be put forward to Mr Clarke.I pray that the new government will take our views on board along with everyone else

  18. S says:

    My apologies.I should have stated how busy the Caolition seem to be as well.Pressed a button before I noticed this point was missing.

    One of the points I have made is what I had mentioned before about protesting innocence.I cannot see that an IPP is  justified without any evidence as hearsay evidence in my view is open to abuse and could lead to so many injustices including the IPP.
    This became evident to me back in 2007 and sadly it is an issue that many people within the last government chose to ignore.I hope the present government will seek to ,at least recognise that this is a problem and will do something to redress the balance to ensure fairness.Othwise,without doing so and the abolition of such a sentence,I can envisage more people being trapped in this sentence and at what cost?.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. You make an interesting point about the kinds of evidence admissible in a parole board hearing compared with the restrictions on evidence that would be admissible in a criminal court. In some circumstances it might of course be beneficial for an IPP prisoner to be able to present evidence in support of his application for release even if that evidence would not be admissible in a regular court. But ultimately it’s impossible to conceive of evidence that demonstrates anything definite about a person’s future behaviour in circumstances that can’t possibly be foreseen.

  19. Mary says:

    I have just had a reply from the MoJ regarding IPP prisoners and they tell me that there are still 1340 people in prison with a tariff of less than 2 years that were sentenced prior to July 2008 when the law changed.  They also tell me ‘all sentences set before this date (July 2008) with a lower tariff (less than 2 years) remain in force.   How do they call themselves Ministry of JUSTICE – what justice is there for these 1340 prisoners who see some people with similar or more serious offences not receiving IPPs and thus serving sentences and being released.   Same old stuff – just a new government, although they have said there will be a review.   This of course means that these people will spend even more time in prison for something they may or may not do in the future.  Everyone keep strong and keep writing.   I have not yet had a response to the petition I sent them with several hundred names on it asking for the release of this group of prisoners – will let you know if I do.

    For the record my loved one was released by the Appeal Court who said that an IPP was disproportionate in the circumstances and substituted a determinate sentence – so please everyone – do not give up hope.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this wonderful news about the release of your loved one, Mary. This should be an encouragement to everyone whose friend or relative is in a similar position to keep appealing and applying! I think it’s still too early to expect decisive action by the new government to remedy the rank injustice still meted out to IPP prisoners given a tariff of less than two years before July 2008: this will be a difficult decision for them, given the predictable howls from the Daily Mail, the Sun and the right-wing cavemen among the Tory MPs and peers, so it will require careful preparation of the ground and equally careful presentation, probably accompanied by some draconian new measure to offset any suspicion of the coalition being “soft on crime”. But the result of the promised review can’t be long delayed now.

  20. Mary says:

    I’ve just had a reply from the Prime Minister to my letter and petition – nothing new – he is sending it to the Ministry of Justice!!     Keep writing, peitioning and informing MPs, prime minister and MoJ everyone – don’t give up for one minute!

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Mary. You are absolutely right. While the Ministry of Justice review of sentencing policy (including, as we know, IPPs) is going on, it’s essential that the review should be regulalry reminded of the specific cases of gross injustice being inflicted daily by IPPs and also of the distress and anger of their victims, both in and out of prison.

  21. Patricia O says:

    I am sure I speak for everyone with a loved one affected by the short-tariff IPPs when I say congratulations to Mary on the release of her loved one at long last.  It is really reassuring, and we wish both of them well.  Meanwhile, everything seems to have gone very quiet.  Our son has not had a reply from either of his letters to his MP, and we haven’t had one from ours.   It is all very well saying we must keep on reminding people, but sometimes it is hard not to feel despondent, when we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.  I have a file full of copy letters now, and we are still no nearer a release date.  I would love to hear from other people about how they are getting on, so please add your comments, and let us know.  Many thanks.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Patricia. I fully understand and indeed share your anxiety. I think things have gone so quiet because the Ministry of Justice’s review of sentencing policy is in progress and no-one is going to commit herself to a view or decision on the future of IPPs until we know, first, the outcome of the review, and, following that, the government’s proposed decisions on whatever the review recommends. Meanwhile various people are, I believe, trying to make sure that the case for outright abolition of IPPs is given full weight by the review, although publicity for this risks stirring up opposition on the part of the right wing of the Conservative party and the more feral of the tabloids, which might make it politically more difficult for ministers to arrive at the right conclusion on the matter. There are some tentatively promising signs, but there remains a mountain to climb if we are ever to get these things abolished for ever.

    Today’s Sunday Times reports that the Minister of Justice is pressing the Home Secretary to deport the 11,000 or so foreigners in our prisons, and to release (or deport) the more than 600 of them who have served their (determinate) sentences but for whatever reason are still in prison. (I can’t give you the website address of this report as the website is now behind Mr Murdoch’s paywall.) I’m writing to the Sunday Times to point out that some 2,500 IPP prisoners are similarly occupying prison places despite having served the penal part of their sentences, and that releasing them would also help to relieve the pressures of overcrowding as well as remedying a grave injustice. But I don’t know if such a letter will be published.

  22. Mary says:

    Patricia, thank you for your good wishes and I really wish that everyone involved in this barbaric situation could be relieved like us.   I would like to point out that although my loved one has now been released, after years of pressure and expense by ourselves, the pain and anguish that was caused still remains with us.   I am sure it will be many a long time before we recover from the injustice of our loved one being imprisoned for 4 years after receiving an 18 month tariff.   Rebuilding his, and our lives, is a long term project with many difficulties to be overcome.    I am continuing to support the abolition of IPPs, and in particular the release of the people with the short tariffs and would urge everyone to keep strong and patient at this time.

    Thanks to Brian also and hope the letter gets published.  

  23. Patricia O says:

    Thank you Mary for your continuing support.  Also, thank you Brian for your tireless efforts on our behalf.  Yes, the journey to recovery after release will be arduous, and fraught with problems.  We who are still fighting for the release of our loved ones must be aware of this.  However, freedom is still worth fighting for, so onwards and upwards.  I have today posted one last letter pre-Spending Review to Mr Clarke re IPPs.  We must not give up until these inhumane sentences are abolished.

  24. Patricia O says:

    Hello Brian, and just to let everyone know, in order to encourage others, we have had a response at last from our son’s MP.  He says that he found extracts from the PRT report, ‘Unjust Deserts’ ‘very worrying indeed’.  He said that he has written to Mr Clarke to express support for the PRT’s proposal of retrospective reform, and has asked for his comments on this issue.  He will let us know the outcome. 
    Also, I see on PRT’s website that they are co-hosting a series of fringe meetings at each of the party conferences to achieve political consensus on justice reforms.   On Monday 4 Oct, at the Conservative one, Juliet Lyon will be there as well as Crispin Blunt.  So the pressure is still on!

    Brian writes: Thank you, Patricia. I too had noticed that Juliet Lyon is active at all three of the party conferences, and the Prison Reform Trust have confirmed to me that she is raising the subject of IPPs at meetings at all the conferences, both publicly and in her private meetings. All very useful.

    You may have noticed that I my letter about IPPs (mentioned above in an earlier comment) was duly published in last weekend’s Sunday Times but unfortunately it had been so crudely ‘edited’ by the letters editor that it was virtually impossible for anyone not familiar with the subject to fathom what I was writing about. They even removed the acronym ‘IPPs’! I’ll put the original letter as submitted to the S Times on the blog when I have a moment (I’m busy at the moment setting up a new laptop, on which indeed I’m writing this!).

  25. Mary says:

    It is all quiet on here at present – I hope people are not giving up.   I have just read in the Daily Gazette in Colchester that another IPP was overturned – so it shows that it is possible to get this done with perseverance and good legal people.   The Appeal Judges describe the IPP as ‘draconian and is a measure of last resort’ – so it is going to be interesting to hear what the sentence review has to say, particulary for the prisoners who received short tariff before the change in the law.   Keep pressurising and strong

  26. Sophie Radice says:

    I’ve got a piece tomorrow in the Observer Comment pages about IPP and my friend’s son.
    Hope you like it….!
    Best wishes

    Brian writes: Many, many thanks for this, Sophie. At last a superbly argued exposition in the mainstream media of the powerful case against these vicious sentences, and made even more effective by the heart-wrenching case history that you relate so movingly.

    By happy coincidence, your article coincides with a report by Anushka Asthana in the same Observer issue of an equally withering attack on IPPs by the chairman-elect of the Bar Council, Peter Lodder QC.

    And to cap it all, Andrew Rawnsley’s column today reveals a battle royal going on between the head of the Security Service and a group in the home office on the one side, and the LibDem members of the coalition plus Ken Clarke and other liberal Tories on the other, over the future of the deeply repugnant Control Orders régime and the 48 days detention without charge obscenity. No doubt there will be a similar line-up for and against getting rid of IPPs.

    This is all extremely welcome (and long overdue) publicity for some of the worst blots on our system of justice. All of us who have been campaigning against IPPs without hitherto achieving much exposure in the MSM will be hugely grateful for your article. I will post a new piece about these articles on this blog shortly.

    All three of these Observer articles should be compulsory reading for everyone who cares about civil liberties. They can all be read online:
    Your own article about IPPs is at

    The report on the attack on IPPs by the charman-elect of the Bar Council is at

    Andrew Rawnsley’s revelations about the struggle going on within government over the future of control orders and the 48-day detention rule are at

  27. Sophie Radice says:

    Thanks so much Brian – and I’ll help in any other way I can……
    I’ve been amazed by the comments on the website – so many say ‘lock him up for ever!’

    Brian writes: Thank you, Sophie. But it’s you who have earned the gratitude of the many contributors to this blog whose lives have been damaged in one way or another by IPPs.

    The majority of the comments posted on your Observer article online are indeed awful, a grim warning of what to expect if ever the coalition plucks up the courage to abolish IPPs as both its parties have promised to do. I have added a comment of my own to the same effect to the online version of your article, and invited the authors of those comments to read my new blog post about it now at  

  28. Brenda Jones says:

    hi brian thought i would share my good luck with you and hundreds of people who have loved ones still serving ipp sentences
    well my son got a thirty month sentence in march 2006 and after doing every course going and doing volontary work and paid work also has had 112 town visits and fourteen home leaves is on his third parole has at last won his freedom and is to be released tomorrow its been dreadful fighting every step of the way  every obsticle possible he will be on a ten year licence which is dreadful also on a curfew its all wrong but at least he is out of prison i wanted to let all the poor families know that they must not give up because l did many times  but thank god our prayes have been answered  B Jones

    Brian writes: Thank you for this good news, Brenda. Please see my response at below.

  29. Brian says:

    Brenda, thank you for your comment and for sharing your good news with us all. Let us hope that the release tomorrow of an IPP who is now years past his tariff, and who has been given such a depressing runaround until now, will prove to be evidence of a new attitude towards IPPs’ release — we know that the rate of IPP releases has incresed massively recently, so those still subject to IPPs can reasonably hope for better prospects than has been the case until now. Each case will still be processed and assessed on the merits and considerable delays are still inevitable, but things have now begun to look appreciably better. We’re all glad for you — and for your son. Tomorrow will be a day to remember.


  30. cat says:

    I am ipp . Was sentenced in 2005 to a 2 yr 48 day tariff. Typically had not done a single cause by this time due to lack of funding in women’s jails. Time was very hard which included getting sectioned more than once. Eventually after 7 1/2 years I was released under a strict life licence. Typically as my probation officer predicted this would not follow . I have been on Esa and pip for mental health problems since release. I did try working as a waitress . Only work I could get and that was without a criminal background check. Am now back on drugs.crack being my weakness just to escape. Feel no future and constantly scared of being returned as again would have go through parole system and being locked up on lifer wings. I know I did wrong however I was 18 and just survived a suicide attempt which was very lucky to survive . It as not a attention seeking act . Really did want end. Both my brothers are high earners which feel I could of been as well. Have suffered depression since young age which has really affected whole life. Remember as child just wanting to run over. Thought in wrong place. Did my crimes as thought this would give final push to end life. Must be cowerd or there some type plan for me. Am 30 now and really struggling with life outside prison . Don’t trust anyone and am constantly being took advantage off as don’t understand life outside. Luckily or unlucky have mum and dad who really try help. I live for them not myself. Is there any help I can get ?… Please someone if know anything please contact me as don’t know how long till end up back in jail or overdose . Please feel life total wreck and my parents don’t deserve this

  1. 23 June, 2010

    Being the bleeding heart lefty that I am…

    Yes, I do sign up for this from Sir Brian Barder. Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection are an abomination. Fair enough when the determination is of, as an example, mental illness. A sectioning of indeterminate time until that mental illness is…

    Brian writes: Thank you, Tim. This is valued support indeed from a top blogger, read by thousands. (See I hope all your readers will also write passionate (or blasé — it doesn’t matter which) letters to their MPs demanding an end to this infamous system. If other bloggers also follow suit, we may find that the blogosphere can move mountains.

  2. 25 August, 2012

    […] father has been working tirelessly to get this unfair practice stopped (see here and here) and I’m proud of his determination and his willingness to stand up for justice. […]