Indeterminate sentences: the double scandal

The Court of Appeal has ruled that it’s unlawful for someone given an “indeterminate sentence for public protection” (IPP) to be kept in prison beyond his ‘tariff’ (the period set by the sentencing judge as the minimum required for punishment, release thereafter being permitted on condition that the offender satisfies the parole board that he won’t reoffend) if he hasn’t been able to take one of the prison courses whose completion is a condition of release.  It seems that a thousand or more prisoners serving IPPs are in this Kafkaesque, nightmare logical trap.  In the words of Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison reform Trust, –

the High Court has rightly held that it is illegal to detain people until they can prove that they are safe but yet deny them the means to do so. The only wonder is that it took a court judgment to demonstrate to ministers the fault in their Alice in Wonderland logic. It is a life sentence in all but name. The only real difference is that it can be given for far less serious offences. The Prison Reform Trust has come across people given tariffs for their sentence of just 18 weeks. The tariff, as in the life sentence, is the minimum time that must be served. It represents the retribution or punishment for the offence. But even after the tariff, the person remains in prison until they have done the courses necessary to demonstrate they are ready for release.

But because of grotesque prison over-crowding and the low priority given to ‘education’ (including the courses required to qualify for release from an IPP) by the prison authorities, it is often simply impossible for an IPP prisoner to undergo the course required.  Unless he has done the course, the parole board won’t consider him for release, even though he has served his tariff.  So he has undergone the punishment imposed by the judgeJuliet Lyon, but can’t be released because he can’t do the course that alone will satisfy the parole board that he is unlikely to commit a further offence.  The result, as Juliet Lyon [left] points out, is that a person whose offence was so trivial that his tariff was set by the judge at a mere 18 weeks finds himself in effect serving a life sentence, the mandatory sentence for murder.

This trap — tariff served, no course available, no release possible, indefinite incarceration even though offence committed may have been minor — has rightly been denounced by all the prison reform bodies as well as by the Appeal Court;  there are useful detailed analyses and briefs here (PDF) and here.   But what these show is that the failure to make available the necessary courses for prisoners who have served their tariffs is only one part of the scandal.  Indeterminate sentences are themselves a scandalous abuse of the system:  ministers should never have introduced them and parliament should never have approved them, regardless of the availability or otherwise of the courses demanded by parole boards as a condition of release.

The whole concept of an indeterminate sentence which takes no account of the gravity or triviality of the specific offence for which it’s imposed is fatally flawed.  Once the tariff set by the judge has been served, the offender has “paid his debt to society”, suffered his prescribed punishment, and ought to be entitled to be released.  Continued imprisonment after the expiry of his tariff is no longer ‘punishment’, nor society’s retribution:  it is indefinite preventive detention, based entirely on the farcical notion that some group of ‘experts’ can predict the future by making a judgement about the future behaviour of a person who may have committed a single offence in the past — and has been punished for it.   The fact that the experts have apparently convinced themselves that they can’t make such a judgement unless the prisoner has done a course in prison, and that once he has done the course, they can, merely adds another dimension of fantasy to the whole crazy system.

This is yet another example of the government’s compulsive itch to lock up — necessarily indefinitely — people who have committed no prosecutable offence (or who have completed their punishment for an offence committed) but who anonymous officials or the police or security services believe may commit an offence in the future.  Control orders are a particularly vicious example of this proclivity;  prolonged detention without either conviction or even charge pending police investigations is another (and one which the new government actually seeks to make even worse); yet another is the government’s prolonged attempt to take powers in a new Mental Health Act to detain indefinitely persons suffering from an indefinable and untreatable mental disorder; and there’s more than a trace of it in the ASBO system, which imposes on young people whose offences have been inherently trivial conditions which are often so arduous that sooner or later the young offender is more than likely to breach them, and will then be sent to prison for the breach, even though the original offence was not by any stretch of the imagination one for which imprisonment was an available or appropriate penalty.

The urge to lock up people for offences they have not yet committed is a symptom of the disease of politicians who are irrationally risk-averse.  There’s no possible logic in it.  They could lock up half the population as being likely to commit an offence sooner or later, and still a proportion of the other half would continue to steal, murder, shop-lift, exceed the speed limit and plot violent terrorist acts.  The justification advanced for this folly and injustice is that pre-emptive imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public, which is the first duty of government: salus populi suprema lex.   But the real motive is much less high-minded.  Ministers responsible for this kind of gross abuse are principally concerned to mind their own backs.  They are terrified of laying themselves open to the accusation by the Tories or the Daily Mail, or both, of being “soft on crime” or “soft on terrorism”. They seek to protect themselves against the charge, when crime figures soar (which they haven’t done for years) or terrorist atrocities are committed (which sooner or later they will be), that they had done nothing to prevent them, or hadn’t done enough.  So they create a record of supposedly protective legislation to which they can point as evidence that they have not been ‘complacent’ (the gravest of political sins) or inactive in the face of danger — any danger.  In trying to protect themselves in this way, on the pretence of protecting us, they have been steadily eroding our most basic human right, the right not to be imprisoned except after conviction and sentencing by a properly established court for an offence defined by law.   Indeterminate sentences, with the surreal apparatus attached to them for permitting eventual release, are yet another example of rotten legislation, conceived by a panicky and unprincipled government and passed into law by a supine and negligent parliament.

If Gordon Brown really wants to make a radical change in the way the justice system has been perverted under Tony Blair, the early abolition of indeterminate sentences would make a welcome start.  Don’t, however, hold your breath.

PS:  According to the Prison Reform Trust, more than 3,000 indeterminate sentences have been passed over the past two years and that figure is expected to increase to more than 12,000 by 2012.  The Trust points out that  indeterminate sentences are in effect life jail terms that can be imposed for a list of 150 different offences. The sentences are being used for “relatively minor” offences rather than the hardened repeat offenders for whom they were designed.   This is not a small-scale problem.   We should be up in arms about it.


150 Responses

  1. Suzie says:

    Thanks Brian. I haven’t embarked on the IMB route as my friend who is in a privately run prison has been how shall I put it ….discouraged from contacting the IMB by prison officials who imply it will not get him anyway. Could Bob comment on that?

    Brian writes: Please see Bob’s reply, below.

  2. Bob says:

    Suzie, I find that comment extremely odd – odd enough to arouse my suspicions as to the motives behind it. Here’s why. Prison officers have varying views of the IMB, by far the most common of which is that we are there, as our mission statement says, ‘to ensure the fair and decent treatment of prisoners’. This is widely understood. Accordingly officers and governors mostly regard us as monitors of the prison’s performance, and as colleagues working with them towards the common goal of achieving a good reputation.
    In my own large prison the relationship is overwhelmingly a happy and cooperative one, in which officers and the IMB are generally honest with each other. In fact strains might sometimes appear – but on our side when, for example, we learn of officers occasionally ‘passing the buck’, telling complaining prisoners to ‘ see the IMB about it!’ Since the convention is that we step in only when officers have been unable to help a prisoner with a complaint, this is hardly an indicator of lack of trust in our effectiveness, is it?
    Frankly, I can’t imagine any but a cynical minority of officers dismissing the IMB as pointless. After all, we take up their complaints and cases too!
    Officers or governors who speak disparagingly of the IMB would seem (to me) to have little experience of a good IMB team. I’m not a supporter of private prisons and know little about them – except that, being born in the 1990s, they are much newer than mine, and don’t have much of an IMB tradition. (Nor an officer one either, come to that.)
    I would say you should ignore the comment. It would seem to be based on prejudice or ignorance, or both.

  3. Jo says:

    Hi Bob,
    After your last post my brother put in application to see the IMB and he has got to speak to them. They are going to find out about the waiting list CSCP Course in Channings Wood .My brother said they were really understanding and helpful and my brother explained about the 3 yr waiting list.
    He walked away with a bit of hope… He is waiting for an answer as they said they will inquire and get back to him….
    Also know his inside probation has seen him after that meeting to say that Channing Wood want reasons why he must do this course before they sent him…so atleast we know my brother will not be wasting his time waiting to be assessed.
    Thanks Bob atleast someone is willing to help……
    Will keep you posted of outcome….

  4. Jo says:

    Hi Everyone,
    Could everyone go on this link and support this Petition and forward it onto any friends family please-
    This is  another petition that was created by B.Jones and it reads:- 
    We undersigned petition the prime minister to Abolishing IPP Sentences for serving prisoners.
    Ms Jones needs as many signutures as possible…

  5. Mary says:

    I hae signed the petition and passed it to others. Good luck with it.

    For information – we still have not had a response to my ealier petition about IPPs and I have emailed to ask if and when we will. To date they have not responded to petition or email. Is no news good news?

    For Bob’s information I also wrote to Dr. Selby and have no response to date.

    Everyone keep trying.

  6. Jo D. says:

    I thought those following all the above might be interested in what appears to be another Government oversight in the devastating IPP sentences.

    Out of Noms3, where IPP prisoners with a tariff of less than 3 years were, as far as risk and categorization goes, no longer to be treated as lifers, came PSI 07 2008. This explained that as prior to 2005 their risk would be the same as those receiving a determinate sentence, so that their progress through the system shouldn’t be hindered by being classed as lifers, which is reasonable, – but not helpful to all those who have already spent a few years unnecessarily in B Cat prisons.

    My friend has now got to an Open Prison (nearly 3 years past his tariff), and has found they now have to go back to being classed as lifers, because the last thing the Open Prisons were told was in 2005, that IPP’s should be treated as lifers.

    This means, that apart from the fact it can take up to 6 months to get to an Open Prison, because most don’t want IPP’s, it seems they then have to go through the process that mandatory lifers do in the few years leading up to their tariff.
    This involves doing a 6 week course to learn what money looks like, how to get on a bus etc etc. and to visit local hostels, which isn’t much use if they’re not being released to that area. Then 8 weeks of supervised outside work, then 8 weeks of unsupervised outside work before they can apply for a town visit.
    After that it is a month or so to apply for home leave, which is a night in a hostel in their home area. As my friend is over 300 miles away from his home area, he’s worked out it will take about 6 hours travelling each way by public transport, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to do much else. And as a lifer he’s been told he has to report to the hostel every 2 hours.

    IPP’s are now being sent to Open Prisons several years after their tariff to ‘integrate them back into society’. As Noms 3 doesn’t apply here (although I’m not sure why), and the waiting list for these courses can be up to 10 months, integrating back into society, – which most importantly is re establishing family links and finding work and accommodation, can’t be done except on a home leave.
    It can be over 2 years from the last Parole Hearing until this point can be reached. They also like them to have 6 home leaves before their next Parole Hearing.

    As most of these IPP’s will have already done several years past their tariff, treating them as lifers again undoes anything that might have been achieved by PSI 07 2008.
    As far as I know determinate sentence prisoners can get home leave in an Open Prison after a few months.

    Does anyone understand why this is?

    Brian writes: Thanks for this, Jo. More evidence of the (presumably unintended?) consequences of the IPP system. I don’t know if anyone more knowledgeable than me can answer your concluding question?

  7. Mary says:


    I don’t think anyone can understand any of it – least of all prison officers and probation officers. The government seem to be in a total mess over the indeterminate sentences and are making no attempt to get out of it.

    I know someone with an 18 month tariff who is still in a cat B prison nearly four years later because the parole board said extensive work needs to be done with him. Several letters to the parole board asking what work they would like done were ignored. Since that parole hearing the prison have said they have no courses for him, he has seen his probation officer twice who says he will do a course with him – to date he has done 1 session, which incidentally is the same as the prisoner did on another course, and he has a parole hearing in March. The fact is that his parole dossier will contain nothing different to the last time 18 months ago so how can the parole say he is safe for release? This person has extensive family/friend support, has a perfectly good home to go to with his family, is willing to do anything that probation want him to, has employment on the outside, has done two courses as requested inside, is an enhanced prisoner with no adjudications, has a responsible job inside the prison – what else can one d? How can someone in these circumstances prove to the parole board he is safe. Probation have said if and when he come out he must go to a hostel which would be miles from his home and employment.

    Indeterminate sentences are counter-productive to rehabilitation of offenders and everyone should oppose them. The government should immediately let out all the prisoners who received less than a 2 year tariff and should use the resources these prisoners are taking up to rehabilitate properly the people who received longer tariffs, and should then abolish the indeterminate sentence and make judges give appropriate sentences for an offence – if they believe someone needs to be imprisoned for 10 years then that is what they should be given. All this mucking about with indeterminate sentences does nothing to re-assure the public and destroys lives.

    For the information of those that signed my petition re indeterminate sentences I have been told by No. 10 that they only respond by email if 500 signatures were added – so it seems we will not be getting a response. Could anyone who feels able email No. 10 and ask them to respond to the petition. Thank you.

  8. Mary says:

    I have just looked at Mrs. Jones petition as described by Jo above – there are only a few names on it – please could everyone who opposes indeterminate sentences sign the petition – it is important to keep up the pressure on the government.

  9. Jo says:

    Hi Mary,

    You had 266 names of people that had signed your petiton do you have there emails?
    We need them to sign Ms B  Jones….
    Do you have email address for No.10  i dont mind emailing them….

  10. Jo D. says:

    To Mary and Jo above,

    I think the Government are burying their head in the sands over all this in the hope it will go away.

    I have written to Lord Thomas, Lord Goodhart and Lord Ramsbotham thanking them for their efforts to abolish the IPP system and have received very understanding replies from all of them.
    Has anyone written to Dame Anne Owers the Prisons Inspector? We did a while back and she expressed how totally opposed she was to this sentence, which she illustrates in her Thematic Review. I think the more evidence she has of the damage the IPP system does the better, because these are the people who the Government are supposed to take a bit more notice of.
    Has anyone had a reply from Jack Straw?

    I know professionals from other countries, in Europe and further afield, who are appalled that this sort of thing can be allowed to happen. Has anyone any ideas on who to write to in Europe etc that might put the Government to shame over what they’re doing?

    As for Parole Hearings, the one my friend had was farcical. The report that came back was nothing like what was said at the hearing, and it’s very difficult to challenge something that’s written incorrectly after the hearing. What it seemed to amount to is that because there is no more work to do on his current offence, they’re keeping him in for a previous offence from many years ago that he received a probation order for, because the Parole Board thought he should have had a custodial sentence, even though they know nothing about the evidence.
    Have the Parole Board been told to keep as many IPP’s in as possible, even when there seems very little reason to do so?
    (I have signed the petition and will e-mail No 10)

  11. Jo says:

    Hi Mary,

    I have emailed No 10 asking for response on your email.

    Is there anywhere else we can advertise this petition to get 500 signatures??????

    Brian writes: I hope everyone reading this will sign this excellent petition at
    It takes about three minutes or less to fill in the form: you then receive an e-mail asking you to confirm that you want to sign the petition: click the link in the e-mail, and it’s done. I suggest that you copy this to any friends who might also be willing to sign.

    The full text of the petition reads:
    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abolishing I.P.P. sentences for serving prisoners.

    The details are:

    My son received an .I.P.P sentence in March 2006 for 30 mths, he is over his tariff, his next parole review he will have served over 50 mths. He has completed various offending behaviour courses but probation is preventing his progression into the community & severed contact with his children. Social services are satisfied with proposed child contact visits, however probation & MAPPA still refuse visits to resume. It is a real disgrace to think this is happening to people in the prison system. I do not feel it is warranted that my son is serving well in excess of his tariff, doing everything possible to help himself without any prospects of release, adding the fact that he has been purposefully denied any contact with his children without good grounds. This I.P.P. law is such a severe punishment & goes against all human rights to keep prisoners in the prison system indefinitely. They do more to hinder a person’s progression & integration back into society rather than encourage it.

    Please sign now and encourage others to do so too.

  12. Mary says:

    To everyone who has commented above –

    277 people did sign my petition but unfortunately I do not have emails for all of them. I am going to, this weekend I hope, email all the people where I do have an address and ask them to sign. I have already got 5/6 people to sign and if everyone could do the same it would be great. There are over 5000 people with an IPP and we must all try to find a way to inform them of this petition – get your thinking caps on.

    I have also had a sympathetic response from Lord Ramsbotham but Lord Goodhart did not respond.

    To date I have not had a response from the IMB – so perhaps someone else could write to him asking for his support.

    I have today had a negative response to a letter I wrote to the Ministry of Justice – just the usual stuff, that is the law and that it how it is and we do not intend to change it!! They have also confirmed that there are only 162 prisoners who received a tariff of less than 2 years still in prison. They said that they could not second guess what sentence would have been given if there was no IPP – how stupied is this? The sentencing judge usually says what determinate sentence he would have given and then halved it for an IPP tariff. I suppose one would not expect the Ministry of Justice to be able to work that one out. Is what can be presumed is that an offence was not really serious otherwise the sentencing judge would have given a much longer tariff.

    In answer to the question has anyone had a response from Jack Straw? No, wherever I have had a response from MoJ it has always been from one of the ‘lesser’ mortals – obviously Jack Straw is not interested.

    To Jo D. – I will do some research on who to write to in Europe – will let you know what I find out.

    Everyone connected to this issue of IPPs keep strong – keep focussed – keep writing – keep reading.

  13. Jo D. says:

    As for suggesting ways to inform people of the petition, writing to the Inside Times so they can publish the petition, I know prisoners won’t be able to sign it but they can tell their friends and relatives to.
    Also contact the Prison Reform Trust, at one time they had a list of all those who complained about the IPP sentence, so maybe they could contact them.

    Mary, reference the numbers issue mentioned above:  -on 16th June ’09 Andrew Stunell asked a question in Parliament about numbers of IPP’s (Written Answers – Justice), and also check 25th Feb ’09 – Justice about IPP numbers and 12th Jan’ 09, – Custody also about IPP numbers.
    If by Oct ’09 only 70 IPP’s had been released, if all those had less than 2 years (I know some had more), and, although the figures given in Parliament include those with 2 years – so taking off 20% for that, I reckon going by the figures given above there should be at least 800 IPP’s with less than 2 years who are post tariff and still in prison.
    So if they claim there’s only 162, they seem to have lost over 600 prisoners somewhere.
    I would appreciate knowing, if by looking at the tables given in response to these questions in Parliament, your calculations bring you to the same conclusion.

    My friend was sentenced to less than 2 years and like many others the judge told him what he’d have given him if he was giving him a determinate sentence which was  twice the tariff he gave him.
    The Judge also said his offence didn’t warrant a life sentence but this seems to be what he’s got.

  14. Jo says:

    Hi ,

    I have emailed Inside Times and Prisoners Reform with the link to this petiton.
    Will keep you updated if i get a response.

  15. Jo says:

    Hi Mary,

    Regarding your petition I have had a reply from No.10 and they are saying they only reply to more than 500 signatures.
    Its just so upsetting !!!!!!!!!

  16. Mary says:


    It is all rather odd – there are many petitions on the No. 10 site which have replies when they only hae between 6 and 500 signatories. Perhaps Brian knows the answer as to how one gets a reply.

    Brian writes: I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this puzzle. I suggest that the best way to get an answer is to write to your MP, describe the reply from No. 10 claiming that only petitions with more than 500 signatures get a reply, quote a couple of examples of petitions with fewer signatures than 500 that have nevertheless got replies, and ask the MP to seek from No. 10 both an explanation and a substantive reply to the petition. No. 10 is much likelier to try to reply properly to an MP than to a letter from an ordinary member of the public like you or me!

  17. Jo says:

    Hi guys,

    Had a response from Prisoners Advice and they will pass the link on to people. also Inside Times (Prisoners Newspaper have sent me a confirmation email and have stated  someone will be contacting me shortly)…

    Guys this is the reply I got back from No.10
    Dear Ms Jo,
    Thank you for your email. 
    As mentioned in the guidance available on the website, only petition with 500 signatures or more will receive a response.

    Downing Street Web team

  18. Bob says:

    Let me say first of all that I’m no expert on why Downing St doesn’t register petitions properly. (Their website told me that about 40 people had signed Mary’s petition….Obviously rubbish, but it’s beyond my scope to answer.)
    But Mary, Jo, Jo D, I’ll do my best to help with the IPP disaster:
    For a start I think there might be some misapprehensions floating around causing problems we don’t need. For example, the 162 IPP prisoners still in jail with a tariff of under two years were almost certainly sentenced before July 14th 2008, the date on which 2-year tariffs were taken out of the IPP system. But unfortunately, like many others this law was not retrospective – which means that the 162 are either still serving a 2-year tariff imposed shortly before that date, or have failed so far to be released by the parole board after the expiry of a tariff imposed after April 4th 2005 (when IPPs began). It also might be true of Jo D’s missing 600. I have no figures for the number of IPP prisoners given a 2-yr tariff before July 14th 2008, but the fact is that anyone in that category will have to battle their way out via all the nonsense and unfair obstacles we all know about.( NB.’Tariff’ has been known officially as ‘minimum term’ since 2002, but the two are still commonly used interchangeably.) I wasn’t sure from reading your comments that you were all clear about this. But sorry, and mea culpa, if you were!
    Then, Mary, there’s the point about how the judge decides the sentence – i.e. how serious the offence has to be to merit the IPP tag. There are 93 serious offences – like rape – which ‘trigger’ an IPP automatically. But as I think I said somewhere in the past, IPPs can also be imposed for the second commission of any one of 153 offences ( usually with violent or sexual overtones). Given so many offences, you can perhaps see that a crime at the ‘lower’ end of this extensive scale from rape – ‘indecent exposure’, for example – can, if repeated, earn an IPP to protect the public from multiple episodes of it. So the offence doesn’t have to be ‘really serious’, as you put it, Mary, for the judge to impose an IPP sentence with a tariff of as little as, say, 2.5 years. The tragedy occurs when such a comparatively undangerous person fails to earn his way out of prison (and should be somewhere else getting proper treatment in the first place!).
    For what it’s worth, Min of Justice statistics show that by October 2009 only 76 IPP prisoners had been released, and that there are 5659 still behind bars, of which 2130 were post-tariff. Of these 60% were working on at least one programme towards their release.
    To give you much better guidance than I can, I suggest you contact:
    Francesca Cooney, Advice and Information Manager, Prison Reform Trust,
    15 Northburgh St, EC1V 0JR
    Tel: 020-7251-5070
    I had a lengthy chat with Francesca this morning about the problems you are all grappling with. She didn’t hesitate to invite anyone who wishes to put their questions and problems to her. I’m sure she’ll be very helpful. Good luck! (But I haven’t gone away….I’ll always do what I can.)

    Brian writes: Thank you for this very generous and helpful response, Bob.

  19. Jo D. says:

    Thanks Bob,
    As for numbers, if you look at the table given in reply to Andrew Stunell on 16th June,(I go through ‘They Work For You’)  if you only look at those IPP’s with less than a 12 month tariff there will be more than 162 still in prison – and obviously post tariff. There are a further 2000 plus with 12 months + to 2 years. I know this includes the 2 years but it wouldn’t be the whole 2000.
    Like others mentioned above, my friend has done lots of courses, all with good reports, but the Parole Board are never satisfied. 
    At his first Parole Hearing, after doing over 20 various courses, the Parole Board kept him in to do a course he wasn’t eligible to do. Two years later during which he did the only two courses left he could do, (on his own initiative) and another Parole Hearing, they still weren’t satisfied, but as mentioned above by Mary and others, they won’t say what he can do that they would be satisfied with.
    If the Parole Board don’t think the courses make any difference what’s the point of investing money in them?
    My friend says a lot of IPP’s think it’s a Government ploy to keep them in prison permanently regardless of their offence.

    My friend’s offence doesn’t warrant an IPP after the 2008 Act. What annoys him is that those who commit the same offence as he did, with a much worse history of previous offences, get a determinate sentence of a few months (as his few months tariff reflected) and get released. As he sees it, if he can never do anything the Parole Board will be satisfied with he will never be released.
    That is a huge variance in sentencing from a few months to life for the same offence just because of the year he committed the offence in .

    I’ve read Dame Anne Owers is leaving her post, I will write to her to thank her for her efforts to highlight the plight of the IPP prisoners, and ask if she can make a last effort to try to make the Government aware of the damage this sentence is doing. I know she can’t help with individual cases but she might be interested in all the problems people encounter to back up her reasons for opposing this unfair sentence.
    She’s at the Inspectorate of Prisons address.

  20. Mary says:

    Just to let you know I have had a very empathetic response from Dr. Selby at the IMB and he is going to write to the Secretary of State for Justice, on behalf of the IMB full council, to ask that prisoners be released whose tariffs mean they would not have got an IPP under present legislation. He also suggests that the more people who make representation to the Sec. of State the better – so anyone who wants to write about the unfairness of the short tariff sentenced prisoners remaining in prison (as per my original petition) the better.

    I will write to Anne Owers as suggested by Jo.D above and am continuing with my other efforts to get the IPP sentence abolished. There are two separate points here – one is to get the short tariff prisoners out and the other is to abolish the IPP sentence – I believe that if we could achieve the first the second is more likely to happen.

    Brian, I thank you for your response and suggestions. I have written to No. 10 to ask how some smaller petitions can get a response but not mine – needless to say they have not responded! I am therefore passing it to my MP – will let you know if they respond.

    thanks to Bob for his advice – will contact Prison Reform Trust.

  21. Jo D. says:

    Mary, that’s really good news from Dr Selby, I will write to him as well now.

    and Brian, I know you say it’s better for an MP to ask questions/write to the Secretary of State, but my MP, who belongs to the current party in power doesn’t answer any of my letters about IPP’s. My friend’s MP from where he lived before he was arrested, is from the party who think they’ll be in power next, gave a very lengthy response about IPP’s, which we already knew, but didn’t ask the questions he asked him to.
    How do we get a reply from the Secretary of State, if he ignores most people’s letters and our MP’s aren’t interested?

    I know they keep saying they don’t make laws retrospective, but shouldn’t the spirit of it be similar? (And they can always modify what they’ve already got – to start to get the less than 2 years out.)
    Someone who has a tariff of, for example 6 months, who has been in prison over 4 years as an IPP, with the possibility of being in for life, and someone who commits the same offence after 2008, gets 12 months and is out in 6 months are hugely different sentences for the same offence.
    Also the instructions to the judges for giving an IPP is when a life sentence isn’t warranted. I know there’s a difference in the licence, but if there’s no upper limit (maximum time) for IPP’s, they can be kept in for life, so the 10 year licence doesn’t come into it, so it is a life sentence.
    Just thinking of other arguments to back up the case against it.

    Brian writes: Jo, if your Tory MP isn’t answering “any of your letters” it might suggest that you have been sending too many in too short a space of time on the same subject. I suggest that you go and see him (or her?) at one of his/her constituency surgeries and appeal to him/her to intervene with No. 10. Alternatively try telephoning someone at his/her constituency office and ask if your letters have been received safely, perhaps saying that you wanted to check before writing to the local paper to complain about never getting any replies from your MP on an important matter.

  22. jackie says:

    hi all
    I also have a son serving an ipp. me  and my family are going to sign the petition. we have a big circle of friends and family who can sign too.its so good to have found this site and I’m encouraged by all the positive comments and support you give to each other. Just watch the petition grow.

    Thanks for all your efforts

  23. Mary says:

    Just to let you know I have had a positive response from the Prison Reform Trust who are liaising with the government about IPPs.   They want to use some of the material in my letter to them and I will agree.  
    Nothing from my MP as to why the government will not respond to my petition – but still trying.

    I also have not had much success finding out who to write to in the EEC – but again will keep trying.

    Nice to hear from Jackie – will look forward to some more names on the petition – it is progressing very slowly – please sign it – Mrs. Jones needs some help!

    Best wishes to all for 2010 and hope Brian had a good break.

  24. Robert Whiston says:

    Here are the tables erferred to from Hansard – 26 Nov 2009 : Column 337W
    Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many prisoners sentenced to serve an indeterminate sentence for public protection were over tariff (a) having had a parole hearing and (b) not yet having had a parole hearing on the most recent date for which figures are available; [300818].
    (2) how many cases involving prisoners serving indeterminate sentences for public protection processed by the Parole Board were (a) resolved, (b) deferred or adjourned at the hearing and (c) deferred or cancelled at the pre-hearing stage in each month in each of the last five years. [300819]
    Maria Eagle: We are in the process of undertaking an audit of data on outstanding parole reviews for prisoners serving an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). I will write to the hon. Member, once the audit is complete and will place a copy of the reply in the Library.
    The number of prisoners serving IPP sentences, whose parole applications were referred to the Parole Board, and which were (a) resolved, (b) deferred or adjourned at the hearing and (c) deferred or cancelled at the pre-hearing stage in each month since the inception of IPP sentences are shown in the tables below. The information has been collated from data held by the Parole Board. It is broken down by month and financial year categorised as: resolved by oral hearing; resolved by paper decision; deferred or adjourned at hearing; and cancelled or deferred before the hearing was convened. (The monthly split for cases deferred or adjourned at the hearing is not available for the financial year 2006-07.)

     IPP – status of cases for 2008 – 09 –


    Resolved, by oral hearing

    Resolved by paper decision

    Deferred or adjourned at hearing

    Cancelled or deferred pre hearing

    April 2008





    May 2008





    June 2008





    July 2008





    August 2008





    September 2008





    October 2008





    November 2008





    December 2008





    January 2009





    February 2009





    March 2009





    Financial year total





    (1) Figures for resolved by paper decision are not available for October 2008


  25. Jo D. says:

    Welcome to Jackie, it’s such a difficult and unfair sentence, I hope reading what everyone else has written helps. 
    Those of us who know people on short tariffs are already aware that the Government seems to have no real intention of releasing IPP’s, so the sooner this sentence gets changed or modified (perhaps so there’s a maximum time – like on a determinate sentence), the better.
    Myself and others above, are writing to as many official people as we can – MP’s, Jack Straw, Anne Owers, all types of Prison Societies. As Mary says The Prison Reform Trust are particularly helpful.
    We can only write to our own MP’s so hopefully eventually someone’s MP will be interested!!
    The more people who keep pushing this the more it will help. 

  26. Patricia O says:

    Having received such a lot of personal e-mail support from Mary over the last year, and been advised by her to read Brian’s excellent Blog, I have just finished reading all the entries on the site. Our son is now 1 year over his 18 month tariff, with no end in sight. He has done courses, and been described as a model prisoner. Like others, I have written all over the show, and have got nowhere. The Prison Reform Trust have commissioned research into IPPs, so are worth contacting, to add weight to their concern. It does seem bleak, but we must continue to do as much as we can. This is the most inhumane of sentences.

  27. S Coker says:

    Just to update, my brother is still in prison. He was sentenced to 14 weeks in April 2008 in all that time he has only had the opportunity to go on 1 course. He was moved to Whatton in i think January of  2009 so he could go on these courses. He attended his first around November. He was also assigned a new probation officer shortly after January and as still never met this person. How do you keep their spirits up when they are faced with such incompetence and abuse of the criminal justice system. Jack Straw, hang your head in shame and correct your mistakes. Release all prisoners sentenced before the 2008 minimum 2 year tariff ruling.

  28. Mary says:

    Most important S. Coker – do not give up –  keep trying, writing letters, signing petitions and encouraging your brother to keep strong.   Keep in touch with sites like this so that you can see you are not on your own.   As you can see from Patricia O message above we have supported each other for a long time now – we could ask Brian if he can put us in touch with each other if you feel that would help (I am not sure he can do that – but if you want we could ask him).   Like Patricia my son is nearly three years over an 18 month tariff – and I have to keep finding ways to keep strong – you must do the same.   Brian (and others on here) are very helpful and supportive and I have felt very appreciative of this since I found the blog.

  29. Bob says:

    To S.Coker ( what a shocking case history!) and others with friends or relatives in the clutches of this disgraceful law: I think it’s time to start exerting pressure on any weak spot we can find in this nasty dark corner of our legal system. It’s time to stop asking for favours and fairness; nobody is listening. So I suggest, for a start, that those who are able try to enlist the help of the noisier newspapers in getting justice (I’m not because of my IMB work). Because… there’s an election coming soon, and politicians will do almost anything to save their seats, especially when put under pressure by the press! For example, The Sun now supports the Tories, so I suggest writing to that awful newspaper offering it the facts about this heartless David Blunkett / Labour Party law, the tragic spin-offs of which most people simply don’t know anything about (especially Sun readers…?!). I’m a Labour Party member but I’d have no qualms at all seeing The Sun give my party a mauling over this dreadful legislation – which it certainly would, especially if former editor and general right-wing loudmouth Kelvin MacKenzie still has anything to do with it. I suggest you caring, loyal, distressed and angry people now play it as hard (and dirty) as you can to get justice for your loved ones! Do it now, in the run-up to the election. Target Straw as well as Blunkett. Shame them publicly. Write to all the newspapers you can, particularly the ‘popular’ ones which carry the floating voters so feared by the political parties – and above all right now by Labour. Get the gutter press on your side. Ring them up and offer them an interview. Go public. Do what it takes! I wouldn’t be surprised at anything Brown would do to win back a few votes….! Even see sense about IPPs?
    For my part I suggest you might ask the Ministry of Justice how the Parole Board is coping with its IPP load. And whether it might be…say… several months behind….?? And if so, why!
    Good luck!

  30. Jo D. says:

    To those who’ve just written, I thought we were having a tough time, but the 14 weeks has totally stunned me. My friend has gone app. 3 years past his tariff – he was sentenced to less than 2 years and had completed his sentence plan by his tariff date. But at every Parole Hearing they set him extra things to do that are unachievable, so he is still in prison.
    The Prison Reform trust are examining the figures given by the government as to how many IPP’s with less than 2 years are still in prison, because they think the figures given by the government warrant further investigation.
    Maria Eagle is doing an audit of all IPP’s and they (PRT) are asking for it to be made public. If, in the first place, it shows the government have lied (considerably) about the figures, it should immediately weaken their position.
    I’m writing again to all members of the House of Lords who have ever complained about the IPP situation – there’s quite a few of them including the Bishop of Liverpool, and they’re not there to win votes like MP’s are. Although as Bob rightly says, with an election coming up perhaps the Tory party would be interested in using what’s going on to help their political goals. I know Nick Clegg has questioned the IPP sentence since 2005 (in his former post) and as a party they are against it (they replied to my e-mail).
    If only 76 have been released since 2005, and about two and a half thousand are past their tariff, many of whom can’t do any more to reduce their risk, then I feel there is something not right about all this which is being clouded by the government issuing false figures. Also the amount being released isn’t really increasing every year despite the fact about an extra 600 go past their tariff every year.
    Also the fact the government are failing to accept they’ve done anything wrong gives the impression they’re trying to keep something quiet.

    To S. Coker, to be given what is a ‘life sentence’ for an offence that only warrants 14 weeks, is appalling and just shows how totally unjust these sentences are.
    To everyone who is writing, I echo what Mary says, don’t ever give up. I’m sure there’s some sort of cover up of something, and we need to keep pushing until it’s put right.

  31. JACKIE says:


  32. Jo D. says:

    We’re glad to have your support. I don’t know what party your MP is, some are better than others, but would you be able to get him/her to ask questions of Jack Straw, because he doesn’t seem to take notice of ordinary people who write to him.
    I think the more of us doing all this then they’ve got to come up with some proper solutions,  and we won’t give up until they do.

  33. Jo D. says:

    Mary, (in particular -although you might have seen it if you search IPP’s everyday as I do) , and all others, please read Simon Burns written question about Indeterminate sentences in Parliament  yesterday (18th Jan).
    It shows there are probably about 1,500 IPP’s with less than 2 years who have gone past their tariff and NOT 162 as they told you and many others.
    So it seems like they may have been trying to hide something???
    I would be interested in any advice about this from Bob or Brian?

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Jo. As you may have seen from a recent blog post, I have been away and not able to respond until very recently to the many useful (and often distressing) recent contributions on this painful subject. I believe that Bob has recently collected some up-to-date statistics on IPPs and if he is free to share them with us, they might form the basis for another concerted campaign to bring the whole scandal to the notice of a wider section of public opinion than hitherto, perhaps in the context of the forthcoming general election and the position of the three main parties on the future of IPPs. Just how to launch such a campaign will require careful thought. An authoritative article in the Times or the Guardian might be a good start, but it’s far from easy to get such an article accepted for publication.

  34. Jo D. says:

    I have found some figures that might be interesting to anyone writing to those who could have any influence on this sentence.

    In October 2007 there were 395 IPP’s gone past their tariff and 13 had been released = 3%
    In October 2008 there were 1,266 IPP’s gone past their tariff and 44 had been released = 3%
    In November 2009 there were 2,299 IPP’s gone past their tariff and76 had been released = 3%

    Are the Parole Board only allowed to release 3% of all those gone past their tariff?
    At the beginning of 2008 Noms 3 was supposed to have made great changes to progress IPP’s through the system, but nearly 2 years later it has made no difference, and neither has the changes to the parole hearing system.
    It is clear now there are around 1,500 IPP’s who had less than 2 years and are still in prison. 

    By an average increase of 600 going past their tariff every year, and at the  3% rate (above) it will take over 40 years just to release the 1,500 with less than 2 years who have gone past their tariff. 
    There is a total of over 2,300 past their tariff, it will take over 60 years at the above rate just to release them.

    It costs over £67 million  a year to keep the 1,500 with less than 2 years in prison (at £45,000 each).
    If this £67 million was freed up it would provide funding for an extra 13,400 places on courses a year for others (at £5000 per person per course)

    The Government proudly claim they are providing £3 million extra a year into the IPP system. All this does is pay for 66 of the 1,500 who shouldn’t be in prison to stay in for another year just waiting for another parole hearing.
    Apart from the psychological damage it is doing to those suffering from this sentence, it doesn’t even make economic sense.

    I’m told figures have been taken from the Ministry of Justice answers to parliamentary questions and the Bromley Briefings.
    As far as I can see the calculations based on the figures seem correct.

    Brian writes: Thank you very much, Jo, for these further statistics, which I hope we can make good use of in the continuing effort to expose publicly the injustices inflicted by this indefensible system.

  35. Mary says:

    I have just seen a correction from Lord Bach that it is not 162 prisoners with an IPP that have gone past their tariff BUT 1225.   How can this government get it so wrong?   They got the figures wrong and did not even apologise.   What a bunch of amateurs.

    They also say that the average amount of time this group have been held in prison beyond the expiry of their tariff is 486 days (if this figure can be trusted).   For the record my son is 800 days over tariff on an 18 month tariff IPP!!   He should be getting a second parole hearing in March but we already know they are many months behind!!  

    Brian writes: Thank you for this further information, Mary. The more one looks at the statistics, the more horrifying the system looks. I’m currently discussing with Bob (the author of several authoritative comments in this thread) possible ways to get some more relevant figures which don’t seem to have been released so far, and what we might usefully do with them when we get them. There has to be a way to raise public awareness (currently near zero) of the gross injustice of the whole thing, affecting as it does so many thousands of people. Meanwhile Bob has alerted me to some excellent speeches in the House of Lords last October denouncing IPPs: see You may have mentioned these earlier.

  36. Mary says:

    I have today had a reply, via my MP, to my letter asking the government why they would not respond to my petition about the IPPs.   I got the usual stuff about IPPs are the law and they don’t intend to make it retrospective etc.   They did not respond as to why they would not answer the petition, there were 277 names on it – so perhaps they can’t afford the postage!    Anyway – I shall write again – perhaps they think 277 people are insignificant – and ask them to formally tell me why they won’t respond to the petition.   I think we need to do anything that keeps the IPP matter in front of them.

    Thanks to Brian for his response – I look forward to hearing further.   Yes I am aware of the House of Lords stuff in October.   I believe they ran out of time to take matters further!!

  37. Jo D. says:

    Mary, my friend serving the IPP has done 1,074 days past his tariff  – I’ve just sat and worked it out – it’s quite frightening.
    He has had two parole boards, although they were a waste of time because they weren’t really interested in anything he’d done. Most of the other IPP’s at the prison he’s in have done over 3 years past their tariff so I’m very doubtful about the 486 average days past their tariff as well. 

    I would have thought an apology from Lord Bach after making such a huge mistake about the amount of IPP’s with less than 2 years would have been in order as well.

    I’ve had a really good response from Dr Peter Selby from the IMB, who is in contact with MP’s about it.
    Also the Government have asked for a review by the Inspectorate of Probation and Inspectorate of Prisons  on IPP’s. I think everyone knows Anne Owers views on them so I have every confidence she will do her best.
    I want to write to No 10 about the petition not being replied to, my MP’s not much help, apparently No 10 don’t always respond to e-mails, would it be OK just to send a letter about it to No 10?? Any ideas Bob or Brian??

  38. Mary says:

    Jo D – that is a long time past tariff – how terrible for everyone involved.!   I’m not sure where the government got their figure of 486 days part tariff – probably another ‘error’ like the one about 162 IPP prisoners with less than 2 yer tariffs!!!   Please could you tell me a bit more about the review you mention?   Is it different to the Lockyer Report done in August 2007?

    It would be great if you would write a letter to No. 10 regarding the petition as they have not responded yet to my latest request as to why they will not respond.

    For the record I have also asked my conservative MP to tell me what they would do about IPPs if they come to power – watch this space!

    Keep strong everyone – and thanks to Brian for allowing us to write here on his blog.

  39. Jo D. says:

    The only thing I know about the review is from the Probation Debate in the House of Lords on 21st Jan. 2010, Baroness Gibson mentions something about IPP’s (at 3.29pm), the there is a response from Lord Tunicliffe (at 4.21pm), if you go down that speech to the paragraph beginning ‘The noble Baroness….’ it’s mentioned there.
    I’ve had the letter about your petition written for a while, I just didn’t know the best way to send it.

    The figures I’ve mentioned earlier (Jan 25th) I’ve sent to a few people to check and no one has found any problems with them so I should think they are correct, and quite illuminating.
    If the Government aren’t worried about people, maybe they would be about the money they’re wasting.
    We won’t give up until they do something about all the suffering this is causing.  

  40. Bob says:

    Jo D, Mary and others. Sorry this blog has lapsed a bit – but did you know that Brian suffered an almighty computer virus attack about a week ago which has sent his systems haywire? (I don’t know if he can even look in on us now.)

    However, the battle continues, and he and I are working on a way to get it into the public eye, so that people will at least know about the IPP scandal – which, as we know, not 1% of them do right now. But whether it’s the two of us or someone with a higher media profile who attempts this raising of awareness, there will have to be the most scrupulous use of facts and figures to illustrate the iniquity of the system; we can’t afford to make mistakes. Then there must be an exposée of the degree of human suffering caused to the many people caught up in this Kafkaesque limbo – but, importantly, it must not be over-dramatized. However emotional or angry IPP victims might rightly feel, the good British public backs away from anger and outrage. For them to carry on reading, the case must be put with reasoned anger…

    OK, now a few more facts. You did a good job on stats, Jo D. It isn’t easy to get consistent ones, is it? ‘They work for you’ quotes excellent parliamentary answers from ministers, and that’s where I got most of the following from ( mainly from answers given by Maria Eagle to Andrew Stunnell MP)- plus from a bit of research of my own:
    As of Jan 19th 2010 there were 5828 IPPs in prison, of which 2468 were b/t
    (beyond tariff).
    Of these 2468 : 779 (31%) have completed one Offending Behaviour Programme (OBP).
    1223 (50%) have completed two or more.
    i.e. 2002 (81%) should be en route to the Parole Board. But are they?
    and 466 (19%) have completed no OBPs. (So what hope for them?)

    Now the most difficult figure to unearth:
    Prisoners given IPPs with tariffs of 2 years or less before July 14th 2008: 1305
    Still in prison beyond tariff at Jan 19th 2010……………………….: 1197
    Of these:
    419 have accessed ONE OBP
    309 ” 2 ”
    193 ” 3 ”
    66 ” 4 ”
    8 ” 5 ”

    So of the 1197 b/t, 995 have accessed OBPs. (43 are in psychiatric hospitals, and 159 are in other units where OBPs are not normally provided.
    So what is their future?)

    And are the 995 – or their dossiers ( under the new regulations making paper submissions sufficient) – getting nearer to the Parole Board? This is what is hard to ascertain and what we must try to find out or expose.
    But with a total of only 98 IPPs ever having been released since their inception in 2005 ( of which 23 were re-called 2007 – 9), there must surely be a queue forming near the exit, because the rate of release so far is ludicrous and contemptible.
    In fact what it points to, in my opinion, is back-covering of the worst bureaucratic kind, and perhaps to the attitude: ‘ Better that all reformed criminals be kept in prison indefinitely than that one recidivist should go free and give the authorities a bad name….’
    This is what we have to try to expose.

    Brian writes (in a rare moment when his wounded laptop allows him to do so): These are appalling figures and therefore invaluable for use in discrediting the whole IPP system. You have performed miracles in assembling them.

    Yesterday, at a crowded meeting addressed by the legendary Lord Bingham, former Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and senior Law Lord, now (regrettably) retired, I asked a question about IPPs, outlining their injustice and the scale of the misery and distress they cause. Lord Bingham in reply didn’t condemn IPPs outright (which was disappointing) but he acknowledged that they are a cause for concern, or words to that effect. But in a hall full of senior and influential lawyers I hope I might have planted a seed of interest and concern here or there.

  41. Jo M says:

    I would like to say to Brian and Bob that I appreciate their comments and work in connection with IPPs.

    I am giving you details of my son who has an IPP so that you can add any relevant information to your facts.

    My son received an 18 month IPP in 2007, which was given for two offences which were 21 years apart.   This IPP reached tariff in Nov. 2007.   He managed to get a parole hearing in December 2008 which was 13 months after tariff expiry.   The Parole Board would not release him or send him to open conditions, even though he had completed relevant courses.  The Parole Board advised that he would get another parole hearing in March 2010 (15 months later).   He has now been told that the parole board is running at least 4 months behind which means that he may get a hearing in July/August 2010.   By that time he will have been in prison for 4 years and 3 months which equates to an eight and half year sentence!

    As regards the scale of the misery and distress caused – it is almost impossible to describe the torture and pain that is involved in not knowing when a loved one will be released from prison.   Every day of our lives with live with despair, despression and hopelessness with no end in sight.   It is hard to believe that in a civilised country like ours the government will keep people in prison, for sometimes quite ‘minor’ offences indefinitely and that there is no public outcry about it.

    I think Bob’s comment about the public not knowing is absolutely right – the public in general think that the people being kept in prison are all highly dangerous serious offenders – and this is just not the truth.   (I fully acknowlege that many of the people in prison are dangerous and do not attempt to minimise this is any way.   I also believe that most of the people who received tariffs of less than 2 years would not be considered so dangerous that they must remain incarcerated.)

    I have knowledge of several other families in a similar situation to ours and without exception they are depressed and full of despair.   I have had considerable correspondence with the Ministry of Justice about these, and got the same response as others mentioned above.

    If there is anything I can do to assist with bringing this to the notice of the relevant people or anything else I will be happy to help.

  42. Jo D. says:

    Firstly, Jo M,  my friend with the IPP’s situation seems almost identical to your son’s, and makes me wonder if they’re working to some format. His tariff was up in early 2007, and has eventually after 2 (delayed) Parole Hearings got to a Cat D where he is expecting to spend a couple of years, by then he will have done about 7 years in prison, equal to a 14 year sentence, (he also got an 18 month tariff)  and there’s nothing to say they’ll release him then.
    He completed all his offending behaviour courses by the end of 2006, but at both Parole Hearings one of the things they say is “to consolidate skills learnt”. He hasn’t been in any trouble since completing his courses – but that doesn’t seem good enough, so what other way do they expect him to prove he’s consolodated his skills – or will that come up at every Parole Hearing?  That expression has been mentioned a few times in the Inside Time as something Parole Boards always say.
    Like you say, the effect on all those connected with anyone serving these sentences is devastating, he
    has already lost touch with all his family because they don’t understand the sentence and think he’s been kept in only because he’s misbehaved – which of course he hasn’t.

    With reference to Bob’s figures, I was amazed that 23 have already been recalled. My first thought was that it shows the system/courses obviously don’t work. However talking to my friend serving the IPP, he thinks that after someone’s been through the IPP system it does so much damage to a person it would be very difficult for them to cope, especially as most lose contact with family and friends after going past their tariffs (I guess we’re amongst the more stalwart of supporters). This echoes something I’ve seen written by Mary, that the way the sentence is managed cancels out any benefits that might have been gained.

    Have you seen the figures given by Maria Eagles (They Work for You) on 9th February 2010?  There are 476 IPP’s who have done more than 2 years past their tariff, the majority of these will have around 2 year tariffs and less, but only 118 with 2 years or less in Open Conditions. We were told, as mentioned by someone else earlier on this blog, that they have to progress through a Cat C then a Cat D – despite Noms 3 saying those with 3 years or less can be released from a Cat B. So how long will it take the many hundreds of others who are already past their tariff to get to a Cat D before they can even be considered for release?

    To Jo M, I’ve heard the Prison Reform Trust are hoping publish something about the problems with IPP’s so would be very interested in any one’s experiences, and as mentioned above, Anne Owers should be bringing out a review so I’m sure she’d be interested.
    Bob or Brian might have some ideas for any concerted action that might be helpful. 

  43. Teena says:

    my boyfreind was over heard threatening to kill someone over the phone witness who heard gaven statment when one rang the police
    there was no victium traced he was charged and put on remand he spent 140 day on remand before going to ocurt when hes solicotr told him to plead guilty he would get 4.5 mths max
    he was given 3 years the judge said he was giving him back the 140 days so he would have to serve 13mths
    he asked hes solicotr after if he had been IPP he said not
    the next day a life offericer came ot see him and told him he had 18mths to serve with an IPP that was in march 2008 hes dont the courses i tihnk no 100% he has got a date at the royal courts of jucstic inb feb 2010 for an appeal but hes got no counsel as he sacked hes solicotr he has also told me this week he has an parole date in april but everyoner telling me not to hold my breath hes coming home any advice please

  44. Jo says:

    Teena- Im surprised to hear that he got an IPP Sentence and did not know about..My two brothers have IPP Sentences and judge does make it quite clear when sentencing.
    He will have been allocated a probation officer maybe you need to contact him/her and his previous solictor to find out what is going on. Are you sure he aint got an Extended Sentence?
    If he has an Appeal in Feb which is anyday soon then he will need a barrister to represent him.. You really need to find out whats going on..How can he have this hearing?
    When is his Parole date April ?

  45. Jo M says:

    As the government refused to respond to Mary’s on-line petition with 277 names on it I am doing a paper petition and hope to get 500 names on it.   If anyone can help by getting some signatures I am happy to email a blank sheet for signatures and then you could scan it an email it back to me.   If anyone is interested please ask Brian for my email address or put yours on here and I will send it through.   We really have to keep the pressure on the government and if we can get 500 names they will definitely respond.

    I hope everyone is keeping strong – one day something ositive will happen.

  46. Bob says:

    Jo M and Jo D, you have my continued admiration and thanks for your work on this awful business. Your own cases make terrible reading; I can only imagine the pain you suffer continuously, and the more I read the more I’m convinced the British people have no idea what goes on in our prisons in their name. Most of you who share this blog ( and you all share my sympathy and attention) know I work on the Independent Monitoring Board of a large prison, and I can assure you I’m doing all I can, as is Brian, to bring this scandal to the public’s notice.
    Teena, your boyfriend’s case sounds to have been messed up by somebody. Was there really never a named victim? I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t follow the logic of his trial. But if there was no named victim, it sounds as though he might have been given a very hard IPP sentence to make sure he didn’t get out of custody and start killing people (having been heard threatening to do so). In which case he could have been given an IPP, since that is what IPPs are supposed to do – make sure the public will be safe once the offender is released. But having put that as a possibility, I’m not at all sure that that is the case. (The whole business seems to have been confused by both the solicitor and the prison officer.)
    So let’s start at the beginning: Under The Criminal Justice Act 2003 ( New Prison Sentences, Schedule 15) ‘Threats to kill’ carry a maximum determinate sentence of 10 years (as laid down in section 16 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861). That would mean 5 years in prison, then out on licence – if there had been an identified victim of the threat, and if the judge had awarded a normal determinate sentence. But you say there wasn’t a named victim. So it would seem possible that your friend has been given a normal determinate sentence of only three years, with release on licence half-way ( i.e he didn’t get the maximum sentence possible under ‘threats to kill’ because there was no ‘real’ victim). Moreover his getting a Parole Board hearing in April, just after half way into the sentence, would support that view. As Jo (which one?) says, the judge would surely have spelled it out had he awarded an IPP. Has your friend been doing Offending Behaviour Programmes, such as Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it [CALM]? If not, and he’s got a PB hearing coming up, it sounds much more like an ordinary sentence than an IPP.
    But as Jo also says, it’s worth checking that he hasn’t got an Extended Sentence. An ES is where the judge awards a Custodial Term, which is the same length as the Determinate Sentence he would award for the same crime – let’s say 10 years. But whereas under a normal determinate sentence the offender would be released automatically on licence after five years, in an ES he would only get out after five years if the PB really thought he was no danger to society. If they aren’t sure, they’ll keep him in for the full 10 years. But he WILL be released then.(There are also further bits that can be added on, but that’s not important here.) I’m just puzzled at what the solicitor said, and how a prison officer is empowered to tell a man he has an IPP.
    Your friend should ask IMMEDIATELY to see the IPP clerk at the prison to find out if he’s on the IPP list. And please let us know. It all seems very messy to me – and worrying for you.
    For the rest, I’m pursuing vigorously the quest to open this up in public.

    Maria Eagle’s statistics continue to pour out helpfully in parliamentary answers, the most recent being to questions from Simon Burns (Con, West Chelmsford) on Feb 5th, after those she gave to Andrew Stunnell (Lib Dem Hazel Grove)on Jan 19th.
    The Feb 5th figures show that 236 IPPs were attached to sentences of 2 years or less AFTER the supposed cut-off date of July 14th 2008. (The small print to that 2008 amendment to the CJA 2003 says that IPPs MAY be attached to sentences of under 2 years if the offender had a previous history of violence…etc. But 236 is a lot….?!)
    The figures we need to shout about are (1) the 2468 IPP prisoners held beyond tariff as at Jan 19th 2010 from the current IPP total of 5828. ( These figures vary daily, which is reasonable, given the large number of prisons from which they are abstracted)…and (2) the unbelievable ‘total’ of 98 IPP prisoners who have been released since 2007 – 23 of whom have already been recalled!
    But JoD, I’ve procured some figures which are different from and worse than Maria Eagle’s, and am wondering just where the truth lies. My source tells me there aren’t 476 IPPs at least 2 years beyond tariff (b/t) in Feb 2010 as ME said, but probably many more. Of the 1305 IPPs attached to under two- year sentences before July 14th 2008, 1197 of those offenders were still in prison at 19/1/10. OK, they haven’t all hit the 2-years- past- the- July 14th 2008 mark yet. But they soon will, and the odds are that many many more than 478 are already well over two years p/t. I have to check that I can use these figures in public – and also that they are correct. The problem is I think they are.

    I would welcome contributions, corrections, amendments, etc, from Tony Hatfield or other lawyers who find legal flaws in what I say. I would hate to mislead people.

  47. Jo D. says:

    Firstly, with reference to Teena’s situation above – I keep thinking I’ve heard the worst abuse of this cruel system – apparently there’s a lot more than I realise. In the various prisons my friend has been in, he’s met a few IPP’s in for ‘threats to kill’, usually to their wife or partner due to being overheard arguing. The wife/partners usually visit and write, (obviously not expecting to be killed). Mostly they don’t understand how they got the IPP because as they say, that’s just what they usually say when they argue. I have also read in the Inside Time of prisons who have very few IPP’s, don’t know much about them and unintentionally give out wrong information to them.

    I am awaiting a reply from my letter to No 10 about their lack of response to Mary’s petition. I did mention to them that if nothing changed it would take many years to release those with even short tariffs, and that it might be appropriate to let them know that rather than let them continue with false hopes of release. 
    I have had another interesting and very understanding response from Lord Ramsbotham, who was against this sentence from the start, because, as he says, the funds aren’t available and never have been available to make it work.
    I have also seen the copy of the letter sent from Jack Straw to Dr Selby, which contains exactly the same rhetoric the M.O.J. reply with to most comments about this sentence.  I always think the purpose of rhetoric is to cover something up, and most of it is challengeable so I intend to pass most of my comments to Dr Peter Selby first. One of the points Jack Straw made (and he says it was mentioned in the H.O.L.) was that he thought it was good that 2000 of the 2,400 + had done more than one course. A look at the figures given to Andrew Stunell about courses shows that the ones who’ve done one course or none are also high. Some of those beyond tariff  have been in prison for over 4 years so having done more than one course isn’t that impressive. On behalf of us all I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Selby for the work he’s done on this.

    Bob, like you I do believe there would be more than 476 at least 2 years beyond tariff, but I think it would probably need a month by month breakdown of when they were sentenced and what to, to find that out. 
    The problem is, some figures are given as less than 2 years and some as 2 years and less, which confuses the issue because they could still give out tariffs of 2 years after July ’08 without it having to fall under the exceptions and the 2 years are included in the 236.
    Also thanks Bob for your continued interest and hard work on this.

  48. Bob says:

    Jo D, I take your point about the confusion between ‘2yrs or less’ and ‘under 2yrs’. But what we do know – from figures I got direct from a department of the M of J (labelled ‘Briefing for Andrew Stunnell MP’, but which I haven’t yet seen published on ‘They work for you’) – is that by January 19th 2010, 1305 IPPs had been issued to people sentenced to a tariff of ‘two years or less’ between April 4th 2005 (when IPPs were first issued) and July 13th 2008 ( the day before the law changed). And of those 1305, 1197 were being held beyond their tariff – whatever it was. That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?
    But from 14th July 2008 the amended law stated that henceforth for both IPPs and EPPs (Extended sentences for public protection – described earlier) a ‘seriousness threshold’ must be reached whereby the offence must be bad enough to merit AT LEAST two years of ACTUAL custodial time, i.e. as an IPP tariff or an EPP custodial term.
    So yes, IPPs can still be given with a tariff of exactly two years minimum. But Maria Eagle’s figures for 2009 show that only 158 IPP awards were made in this ‘two-year’ minimum category. Comparing this with the ‘2 yrs or less’ pre-2008 category, we can see that 290 IPPs were issued in 2008 up to July 13th, 563 in 2007, and 550 in 2006. In other words the drop to 158 last year was a pretty sudden one. So let’s hope that progress of a sort has been made on the judicial front…

  49. Patricia O says:

    Hello, everyone.   Does anyone know if  under the Human Rights Act,  there could be a case to be answered for detaining people beyond their tariff, when it has become obvious that a person cannot do any more courses than he has, or prove he is ‘safe’ to release?  Our son is being kept in,  (he will have doubled his initial minimum 18 month tariff in June),  as the ‘experts’  say he is still having ‘inappropriate thoughts’, (in spite of 2 courses),  when he isn’t, but how can he prove that?  Could a case be made against a system which keeps people locked up for what they might be thinking? Thank you everyone for what you are doing to try to change this inhumane system.
    Warmest wishes, Patricia O

  50. Jo D. says:

    Patricia, after reading that I was immediately reminded of the Thought Police (George Orwell) – and realised there are a few other similarities. I don’t know how it fits into Human Rights – Bob or Brian would know more about it, but you could try contacting Liberty. 

    While I was trying to find something else, I noticed on 5th Dec’ ’07, in the House of Commons Jack Straw said as part of his opening speech – “ my Right Honourable friend, the Member for Sheffield Brightside [David Blunkett] has confirmed to me, these sentences [IPP’s] were never meant to target those who would have received tariffs of less than 2 years”. 
    This was repeated on the same day in the House of Lords.
    Surely this would have given reason to make the amendment retrospective, it wasn’t as if they had a change of mind in 2008, but the person responsible for this sentence had never intended them to be given to those warranting less than 2 years.