On the fate of prisoners now indefinitely incarcerated as IPPs
A government Bill, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (‘LASPO’), now going through parliament aims to replace the infamous system of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection or IPPs, a legacy of Mr Blunkett’s tenancy of the home office, with ‘tougher’ determinate sentences for various very serious offences. Replacement of IPPs won’t, however, be retrospective. Nearly 7,000 IPP prisoners are currently adding to the grotesque overcrowding in our jails, and more than half of them have served out their tariffs and ought, in justice, to be released unless in a few exceptional cases it can be demonstrated that they represent a genuinely serious risk to the public if set free. The LASPO Bill makes no direct provision for these. But we now have a valuable statement of the position from an authoritative source.
The following letter from a senior official at the National Offender Management Service, stating the government’s policy on existing IPP prisoners following the ‘reform’ (or replacement, or abolition) of IPPs under the LASPO Bill currently going through parliament, is important, cautious but generally encouraging. [Hat-tip: Mr Robinson of Emmersons Solicitors and the Facebook IPP Campaign website]:
Dear Mr Robinson
Thank you for your e-mail of 22 January about the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).
You ask what is happening to speed up the release of post tariff IPP prisoners and what will be done to ensure post tariff IPP prisoners are treated fairly when the IPP sentence is reformed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) Bill. On 26 October the Government tabled amendments to the LASPO Bill which will reform sentencing for dangerous offenders. We will replace IPPs with a tough new regime which will see more dangerous criminals given life sentences, and others spending long periods in prison and being supervised for long periods after their release. Prisoners currently serving an IPP sentence will not be released unless the Parole Board authorises it.
However, there is concern that those currently serving IPP sentences should be supported in progressing through their sentence and reducing their risk. We will be using our best efforts to improve the progression of these prisoners through sentence, including improvements to assessment, sentence planning and delivery, and parole review processes. We continue to monitor outcomes to ensure further improvements in this area.
In the Sentencing and Rehabilitation Green Paper last year we raised the issue of whether the Parole Board’s test for release in these cases was the right one, and this is a question that we will explore further. Our legislative proposals also give the Secretary of State a power to change the release test used by the Parole Board for IPP prisoners and prisoners serving the new extended sentence. We plan to consult on whether the current release test for IPPs and the new Extended Determinate Sentence ensures effective public protection while allowing offenders to demonstrate that they can be safely managed in the community.
ISP Policy Lead
Public Protection Operational Policy Team
NOMS Offender Management & Public Protection Group
Ground Floor, Grenadier House 99-105 Horseferry Road London SW1P 2DD
For multiple statements and examples of the giant miscarriage of justice represented by IPPs, please do a search for ‘IPPs’ on this blog, including for the most recent (here). Thanks to an enlightened Justice Secretary, it looks at last as if IPPs are on the way out, whatever misgivings we might have about some of the measures proposed to replace them. It’s good to know from Ms Churcher’s letter that if and when IPPs are replaced, the fate of those serving IPPs when LASPO bec omes law won’t be forgotten. It would be a gross denial of justice if any significant number of IPPs were to be left languishing in prison well beyond their tariffs, their release delayed by mainly bureaucratic factors. Polly, we look to you to make sure that not only justice is done to these people, but also that justice is done briskly and humanely.