The Truth About IPP Sentences

Clarke intends to review and possibly scrap IPP sentences

Scapping IPP sentences will be fiercely opposed

Scapping IPP sentences will be fiercely opposed

IPP sentences are to be reviewed with the intention of scrapping them altogether according to the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke. However, there is fierce opposition to his plans and he may not succeed.

He made the case for getting rid of IPP sentences during a statement to the House of Commons as he introduced his new legislation on sentencing.

Nevertheless, before those of us opposed to the worst sentence ever to be introduced in Britain all start jumping for joy, must strongly urge caution as the review is likely to take many months and, given the government’s current record on U-turns, one can never be certain as to whether such a radical policy will ever make it onto the Statute Book and become Law.

With David Cameron’s announcement, echoed by Mr. Clarke today, that the reduction in sentence for an early guilty plea by defendants will remain at 33%, it at first seemed to right-wing Tory MPs that Mr. Clarke was in full retreat. In fact, nothing was further from the truth as about halfway through his Commons Statement, he announced that the government intended to review the operation of IPP sentences, get rid of them and replace them with what Mr. Clarke described as “the best of what preceded them“.

What Mr. Clarke meant was replacing IPP sentences with long determinate sentences and, where appropriate, discretionary life sentences. A life sentence would also automatically be given where someone who has already been convicted of a serious sexual or violent offence commits a similar or the same offence in the future.

This would be a return to precisely the system that we had prior to the introduction of IPP sentences by Tony Blair and the discredited former Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

As Mr. Clarke pointed out in his statement to the Commons today, IPP sentences have never worked as intended and instead of producing only a few IPP prisoners every year have been responsible for incarcerating thousands of people who have no idea whether or when they will ever be released.

The real absurdity of the current IPP system is not only that the prisoner has no idea when release may come but neither do the authorities.

The Justice Secretary also introduced other reforms including a mandatory six-month sentence for threatening somebody with a knife and less use of remand in custody. Many visitors to however will be most interested in the future of IPP sentences. This site has become the leading websites in the UK with regard to IPPs and will no doubt remain so as we watch the failed New Labour policy gradually walk the long road to destruction.

Nevertheless, we really do urge caution. If anyone thinks that the IPP sentence is going to disappear overnight, they need to think again. Furthermore, Mr. Clarke made no reference as to how the justice system would deal with those who have already been convicted and sentenced to an IPP, preferring instead to concentrate on those who may or would have been convicted in the future.

The Prime Minister also made it very clear this morning in his press conference that the current IPP system will continue until the new measures come into force.

He suggested during the Downing Street conference that legislation may be brought forward in the autumn with a view to it being on the Statute Book by next April. This timetable however is far from certain as the reforms contained in the new bill are likely to meet fierce opposition from right wingers and the tabloid newspapers. believes that if any other MP had stood up in the House of Commons and put forward the kind of reforms presented by Kenneth Clarke today, they would never have got away with it.

For all those who have loved ones serving IPP’s and for those of us who are opposed to this appalling sentence on principle, Mr. Clarke’s strength and resilience in dealing with criticism makes a refreshening change from the weak and lily-livered approach offered by David Cameron.

So what of the future?

It is likely that events will follow one of two possible routes. The first would see the reforms in the Bill through to their natural conclusion as they become law, probably with little modification as it slowly dawns upon opposition MPs and the right wing of the Tory party that there is little option but to support the introduction of such measures.

The alternative route would see an intense battle within the Conservative party and between Tory MPs and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners as accusations of being “soft on crime” get heaped upon David Cameron and his Cabinet from all sides of the media, victims groups and organisations with vested interests in keeping the situation as it is now.

For what it is worth, believes that the first route is far more likely to be adopted than the second.

This is not only because it is essential to save money in the prison system and in the courts but also because many of those in Parliament never really supported IPP sentences in the first place. Most were whipped into submission and forced to walk-through the Yes lobby or risk political exposure and criticism in the tabloid newspapers for being irresponsible by not locking up serious offenders for as long as possible.

Many on the Labour benches were forced to vote for IPP sentences by overzealous party whips or simply stayed away during crucial votes thus ensuring that Tony Blair’s huge majority would carry the day. With the coalition government now in full swing, for the first time we may see people going back on their previous votes as they now have the opportunity to freely exercise their conscience.

There will of course still be opposition to the new measures presented by Mr. Clarke today.

Prison officers will doubtless complain that if IPP prisoners are released and replaced by determinate sentenced prisoners, some prisons may close and jobs may be lost. Policemen across the land will fuel the media with dire predictions of disaster. Probation officers will probably complain bitterly about cuts in funding as the savings that were to be found from offering a larger discount for pleading guilty must now be found from other quarters.

The Sun and Daily Mail newspapers will oppose the reforms in every possible way that they can think of and continue to accuse the government of being soft on crime and failing to fulfil their duty of protecting the public. Meanwhile, the same newspapers will be counting the profits that they make by selling such utter nonsense to an ever more gullible and ignorant public who can’t be bothered to find out the facts as they really are.

Despite the above, is more or less convinced that Mr. Clarke will get his way at last and that IPP sentences will eventually be scrapped altogether. We must also make it clear however that the process will not be quick, not be easy and could be derailed very easily.

Remember too that until IPP’s are removed, the system as it is now will continue. By next April there will be several hundred more IPP prisoners locked behind bars than there are at present.

Those who are already sentenced and those who will be sentenced between now and when the reforms finally come into force will still face an uncertain future. No indication at all has so far been given as to how the government will deal with those prisoners who have already exceeded their tariff and yet still remain in custody. Nor has the government indicated how it will solve the 2,000 case backlog currently faced by the Parole Board.

The best we can say today is that some progress to get rid of a failed policy brought in by Tony Blair for purely political reasons is being made. The road is a very long one however and there is plenty that can go wrong in the meantime. One must hope that Mr. Clarke and Mr. Cameron have what it takes to see their reforms through to the end.

All right-thinking people, particularly those with loved ones serving IPP sentences, will hope that the government succeeds in its reforms and that it will finally remove from our legal system once and for all the worst possible sentencing legislation ever to be introduced to Britain .

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22 Responses to Clarke intends to review and possibly scrap IPP sentences

  1. tom winstanley
    January 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    if a person knows they are elegible for ipp they may as well commit murder at least then they will have a release date and im surprised this isnt happening already the ipp sentence dosnt serve any purpose at all a murderer will be released before a ipp inmate wheres the logic in that

  2. Na
    January 15, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Reading Ricky’s coment made me cry. My brother is in the same position. He can’t see the future. It is horrible what they put people true. They torture them, and their families. My brother has 2 small children. They don’t even take into consideration about the family how they are going to live without the husband. The kids are counting the days every day when dady is going to come back. dreaming about it. but the truth is that he has been given 22months but knowone knows when he will be released as he is serving Ipp. Can someone help. to get rid of that IPP? please. Does anyone know any good Lawer how could deal with IPP?
    thank you

    • Raymond Peytors -
      January 15, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      You may want to contact Emmersons solicitors. Just click on their ad on Alternatively, there is the Condfidential Advice Service available to full members of the Members Club, available at
      There is also the book, “How to Survive an IPP Sentence” available at

  3. Raymond Peytors -
    June 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for this valuable first hand account.

    • CAR
      July 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Thank you Ricki for this message of someone who actually knows what it is like, not only to be the one inside serving the IPP sentence but the impact that it has on the families who try to support and encourage their loved ones inside. It is the mental torture of not knowing when, or even if ever, a release date will ever come.
      Well said, and I know there are many, many more of us working try to keep families together etc.
      A very well documented insight. Thank you

  4. Peter Watkins
    June 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Change will not come without a fight. Those interested have to write or pester MPs and and the PM. We may not get a reply. We may never know if it was read. But numbers do make a difference. It is known that for everybody who writes, there are 100 of the same opinion who didn’t bother.

    For what it is worth, I told the PM that the Guardian (J. Rosenburgh) had a good article supporting the IPP reform. So the ‘thinking part’ of the media is not against reform.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      June 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      You are of course correct in your observations. I would also encourage as many as possible to put pressure of every kind on their MP. Do the same with the tabloids too. Your letter may not be published but it will be read.

  5. dot rose
    June 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    To all those people like I wish you all good fortune some have seemed to have spoken to MPs,I wrote to several and never had one reply.I had some acknowlegements of receipt of my questions but that was all. I was very pleased to find this site the first one that talks common sense. I have read the March 2010 IPP report prepared by HMI Probation and HMI prisons and truly believe that most of the general public has no idea what IPP is ,I didnt some 3 years ago,I am disgusted and appalled that this can be law in Britain. I could go on and on but Im preaching to the converted here we need to make more people aware of this injustice. I am not just fighting for my son but for all those serving an IPP sentence. Its wrong.It is nice to know there are others out there who feel the same.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm


    • geoff
      June 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Whatever your own personal beef against sex offenders or whoever might be, you help nobody with your comments. My nephew is confined to a wheel chair thanks to some thug using a baseball bat on him but HE didn’t get an IPP. Still destroyed my nephew’s life though. Don’t be so sanctimonious. You’re not the only one with problems.

    • Petronella
      June 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

      Yes offenders need to be punished/rehabilitated in an aceptable manner. In a modern country in modern times it is expected that there be transparancy, fairness, juctice, etc, etc as far as IPP is concerned there is none of it. Banged up without a mandatory life sentence but serving one, with false hope of release. Damaging to the offender and his innocent family, remember they have rights too. If it is justifiable that sex offenders deserve a mandatory life sentence than if it is passed in the courts there would not be a problem. Let offenders be sentenced with determinated sentences not INDETERMINATED sentences. Sympathy for victims will always be there. One once said,they are safer living next door to a serial killer than having an exIPP prisoner. An unacceptable piece of sentencing. It should be scrapped. IPP is what we are saying MUST go. There are those who are innocent but could not prove it, there are those who have reformed, don’t they deserve a chance?

      • CAR
        July 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

        Well said, I could not have put it better myself. I think we should all get together and parade with placards outside the houses of parliament. Let them see how many families are suffering as a result of their loved ones,some as you rightly say are indeed innocent but have no way of proving it once they are on an IPP.

  7. Pamela
    June 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Like all your other subscribers’ I am dissapointed but not surprised that IPP sentences were not discussed. What I am angry about is that despite Kenneth Clarke giving me personally a promise that extra funds were being put into the HRP courses, so that prisoners like my brother, who is over tariff can see a light at the end of sentence. He has not even been assessed yet! Through his solicitor at EMMERSONS we are going for a judicial review and are currently waiting for funding. It may not surprise you that the Governor did not reply to the letter advising him for the action. It is common knowledge that there are more prisoners waiting for courses than there are courses available in the whole country and they cannot be released until after they have attended them. The HRP course is 6 months duration,then it is not automatic release as they have to stay a further 6 months to see if the course has rehabilitated them. So that is a further year over tariff. It just goes on and on. I will fight to the end for my brother’s release.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      June 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Thank you Pamela for this valuable update on your own situation. Ken Clarke, like a very few other basically honest MPs give assurances in good faith only to have the Treasury screw them over! As for prison governors, they are interested only in 2 things: their budget for next year and their bonus for spending as little of it as possible. The courses themselves, as I have said many times over the years, merely provide an excuse for a) eventually releasing some people and b) employing huge numbers of inexperienced, poorly trained individuals (facilitators and the like, mostly young women actually) straight out of university who together make up a ‘protection’ industry that is anything but objective. Now, more than ever before, we have the additional problem of a pathetically weak prime minister who has handed power over to the Sun and the Daily Mail. Ironically though, in the end it will be the lack of money that moves us forward. If it were not short of money, the government would just build more prisons and keep people in for even longer, as they did during the Blair era.

      • CAR
        July 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

        I too agree with all of the above comments. The Prime Minister and his associated need to grow a pair of balls and support MP’s such as Ken Clarke who, it would appear, is more humane and in tune with how these IPP’s effect our loved ones inside and also the family members involved. They are also serving these sentences. I will never give up the fight for Justice and an EQUAL and FAIR sentencing regime. Determinate sentences is the only way forward.

    • Paul
      June 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      What is an HRP course? (not heard of that one)

      • Kate
        June 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

        Healthy Relationships Programme (HRP)

        The HRP programme is designed for men who have either been convicted of or admit to abusive and violent behaviour in the home and who have been assessed as a risk of being violent in their intimate relationships.

  8. June 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

    There is no doubt that the whole IPP sentence was ill-thought out and possibly the best example of what happens when politicians decide to win popularity by getting involved in criminal justice policy.

    In terms of gaining release, part of the problem is the ridiculously short tariff dates, but also the increasingly risk-averse Parole Board. There is a problem generally with all lifers and the release rate has dropped dramatically partly because of the increase in negative recommendations from Probation Officers.

    The more recently qualified officers are much less likey to take risks in suggesting release and of course the impossibly complex and risk-focussed OASys system only really highlights the negatives not positives in a case.

    It was also a big mistake to do away with the so-called
    ‘independent’ report prepared following an interview with the prisoner by a Parole Board member. Another example of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    • CAR
      July 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      It may be of assistance to you all, in relation to Oasys reports, did you know that these reports are based predominately on previous answers to questions by PO’s and recent or past incidents. THIS INFORMATION IS THEN POINT SCORED BY A ‘MANUAL,
      AND EVEN AUTOMATIC SCORING. tHIS MANUAL IS SUPPOSED TO BE ‘THE BIBLE FOR RATINGS AND ESTABLISHING PERSONALITIES AND BEHAVIOUR IN RELATION TO RELEASE DATES. How can point scoring and in some instances automatic point scoring be applicable as each person has their own personality and idiosyncracies. How can this point scoring take into account being questioned under pressure and in unfamiliar surroundings etc. How factual and realistic is this impersonal and unfair practice. ONE MANUAL TO FIT ALL PERSONALITIES…. how fair and just is this….

      • Raymond Peytors -
        July 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        This is not strictly correct. There is a great deal more to the OASys system (now OASys 2) than this. The true nature and mechanism of the system is described in “How to Survive an IPP Sentence” available at OASys also only forms part of a larger and more complex risk assessment which is also described in detail in the book. – RP

  9. Petronella
    June 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I am so disheartened seems we have hit rock bottom, weighing this on a scale of 1 to 10, its back to square one again, no mention of IPP sentenced prisoners, whom are the ones suffering the dilema of IPP. This needs correcting please. “If the public don’t understand this IPP then why won’t you do something about it” Clever wording once it’s explained any human being on the face of the earth would realise how very inhuman this IPP is, surely the public would never be in favour of voting for them again. IPP in this so called first world sounds very third world to me.

    • Jan
      June 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      If more people read what’s on the opinion site then EVERYONE would understand what a miserable law this is. I’ve read the rest and unlike Mr. Peytors, none of the others are prepared to tell it as it is. Clarke said nothing about the release test for those inside today but couldn’t stop talking about it a couple of weeks ago. It’s Cameron that’s the problem. I spoke to my MP and he reads this site and agrees with the opinion site but he’s to afraid to say so in parliament

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