The Truth About IPP Sentences

Indeterminate sentence (IPP) review facing opposition from Tory right

The Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) has received a lot of attention from visitors to, as do most matters relating to Criminal Justice and the Law.

It is probably worth reminding ourselves why the former and later discredited Home Secretary,David Blunkett introduced this appalling measure in the first place. The reasoning behind his decision tells us a great deal about how politicians of all persuasions use serious offenders, particularly sex offenders, as a political football in order to gain votes and thus cling to power.

Let us say first that people who commit serious offences probably deserve to go to prison. One can argue about what ‘serious’ actually means but for most people, if someone seriously hurts someone else in some way, that is a good starting point for the term ‘serious’. (If you disagree, let us know by contacting

After the murder of James Bulger and then Sarah Payne, the mothers concerned decided to lobby public opinion and to put pressure on the Government of the day to bring in more and more stringent measures against alleged sex offenders.

Whilst this was understandable at the time, there was a huge flaw in the argument that children were at risk wherever they went. The suggestion that children are most at risk outside the home is recognised by most authorities as being totally incorrect. Most abuse, of whatever type, takes place in the home and is carried out by someone in or known to the family concerned.

The concentration of all child protection legislation since Bulger and Payne has been on the supposed danger to children from strangers, rather than from family members or close friends. Governments don’t like attacking families because it costs votes and newspapers don’t like attacking families because it costs profits.

Consequently, most child abuse at home still goes either undetected or unreported whilst statutory authorities concentrate hugely expensive resources on those who have already offended in the mistaken belief they are almost certain to offend again, even though the evidence shows the exact opposite.

On the other hand, successive Home Secretaries and often zealous, men-hating female MPs have used the issue of child protection to get almost anything they want through Parliament, usually with little or no scrutiny and almost always taking advantage of the fact that nobody wants to be seen to be raising any objection, no matter how reasonable, to any measure designed to ‘protect children’ for fear of being criticised. They certainly do not wish to raise such views in public.

When David Blunkett was appointed as Home Secretary he famously proclaimed that he would “…make Jack Straw look like a Liberal”. That in itself should have warned us that Blunkett was a man who cared only about himself and would use any device, mechanism and opportunity to achieve his political ambitions – regardless of the greater consequences.

On hearing Blunkett’s outrageous claim, the veteran and highly respected MP, Tony Benn intimated that he would love to run up to Blunkett with dynamite strapped to his own chest and give Blunkett a big hug. Some may suggest that it is a pity that he didn’t do just that.

Blunkett’s approach to his job was simple:

He knew that, second only to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary is probably the most powerful person in the country. Blunkett, like his predecessors and successors since, was determined to be the most powerful Home Secretary of all. Furthermore, as a confirmed supporter of Blair and his American masters, Blunkett had no problem falling into line by, for example, signing the now infamous Extradition Treaty with the United States that penalises his own fellow citizens whilst protecting those of the US. Thus we see the measure of the man.

Little wonder then that he felt no guilt over giving in to the purveyors of child protection paranoia – including the Sun newspaper – by bringing in the IPP sentence. Furthermore, he knew full well that by doing so he was opening the door to injustice on a huge scale, an injustice that was further exacerbated by the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 which listed a hundred or so offences for which judges were expected to pass an indeterminate sentence, regardless of the particular details of the case.

Instead of the few hundred IPP sentences expected to be passed, there have in fact been thousands. More than 15,000 people are now serving life or indeterminate sentences in the UK, more than in all the other EU states put together.

The ill-fated Jack Straw tried to put matters right when he was made Justice Secretary but failed – and failed miserably.

Blunkett eventually got kicked out after personally intervening in a passport issue for his own personal benefit but by then the damage was done. Charles Clarke, John Reid and the obnoxious and totally discredited, expense fiddling
Jaqui Smith all discovered during their respective tenures as Home Secretary a wonderful truth:

You can do anything you want and get everything you want in Parliament as long as, whatever the objective may be, it is prefixed with the words “ order to further protect children”.

The madness continues to this day and so called ‘child protection’ has been used to influence decision making with regard to cigarettes, alcohol, health and safety, traffic cameras, CCTV, parenting, education, sport, employment and goodness knows what else.

With almost every job now requiring a Criminal Records Bureau check and with the dreadful Vetting and Barring Scheme still under review, not to mention the all powerful NSPCC, Childline, Kidscape, Barnados, the leaderless CEOP and all the other money making outfits reliant on child abuse being kept high on the agenda, it is not surprising that any measure that could harm that very vocal lobby is likely to meet fierce and very public criticism.

Make no mistake; ‘Child Protection’ is a huge industry in the UK and part of that industry consists of the thousands of people employed to manage, supervise, interview and ‘treat’ those on IPP sentences.

Whole prisons have been re-designated as sex offender institutions, others have been designed for violent offenders serving IPP sentences. Millions are spent – and generated – every year as a result of the public fear created by those with vested interests.

All of the above is supported by the further imposition of IPP sentences. That is not the worst of it though.

Those unfortunates who are subject to an IPP have an impossible task. In order to be considered for release, they somehow have to PROVE that they will not re-offend in the makes the point that it is impossible to prove that you are NOT going to do something.

In other words, they have to somehow prove a negative, do so whilst in an entirely artificial environment AND achieve this while whole ranks of bigoted, badly trained, generally inexperienced and over-zealous probation officers, thick prison warders and trainee (yes, trainee) psychologists find ways to keep them in prison.

Probation, police and prisons against review

If an IPP prisoner is released – and very few ever are – they are on licence for at least ten years and can be recalled to prison if ‘it is felt’ (not proved)that their behaviour is giving cause for concern. This is assessed by the Probation Service and MAPPA who have no interest in supporting the offender, only in policing him. However, after TEN years of this licence, if the offender has not already been recalled, he can apply to have the licence removed. Such an application is almost bound to fail however.

No application has never been made and such a consideration is almost wholly determined by the view of a probation officer who may or may not know anything about the person concerned, other than what is contained in what are almost certainly inaccurate and heavily biased previous reports written by ‘professionals’ who often could not be any more unprofessional if their lives depended on it.

Probation officers, policemen and prison officers are all getting ready to fight any review in order to safeguard their jobs. Prison governors have said already that if prisoner numbers are reduced, especially long term prisoners, then prisons will close and jobs will be lost.

Probation officers love long licences; such measures keep them employed. 40% of offenders on licence are recalled to prison, many unnecessarily and are then released on licence again so that the whole sequence starts all over again. This enables the Probation Service and the Police to claim that they need more staff in order to supervise ‘dangerous’ offenders.

Ken Clarke is aware of all this and seems determined to do something about it.

All of these points have to recognised and addressed by any review of Indeterminate Sentences. Any progressive measure will be attacked vigorously by the hugely powerful child protection lobby and women’s groups, the tabloid press and right wing MPs. hopes that Ken Clarke, together with the Justice Minister Crispin Blunt and others have what it takes to repair the damage done by Blunkett and his power hungry successors.

It is bad enough to have such an obnoxious and repellent piece of legislation as the IPP on the Statute Book in the first place; it is far worse to allow it to stay there for that will demonstrate only that those in power are unable to recognise and repair a travesty of justice whilst also proving that they are too weak to speak the truth.

23 Responses to Indeterminate sentence (IPP) review facing opposition from Tory right

  1. Sue
    December 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Hi my brother got ipp two years the system stinks he has been in four 5 years wot he done waa wrong but he did not kill anyone this country it right up the pan amdnd this ipp system should b abolished

  2. Sima Khan
    March 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I have got to a point where i dont htink anybody will listen to us. Especially those of us whose loved ones were sentenced before the 2008 changes. They have been forgotten and no green paper or no news papare mentions them or even remembers them. All changes will only affecte recent IPP’s our loved ones will be left inside and novody can do anything about it.

  3. Sima Khan
    March 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

    was wondering if anybody would be able to advise me. My partner was sentenced to an IPP in september 2005. He recieved a 18 months tariff and he is completing his 6th year now. I was wondering if anybody could tell me whether we could appeal against the IPP due to the fact that if he was sentenced after the 2008 changes then he would not have been given an IPP in the first place. Is there any graounds on which we could appeal. Also i have been informed if he ver comes out on licence he can NEVER go on holidays or out of the country with me. Is this true. Also is it true that if you have criminal convictions any insurance you apply for hits the roof. I am so worried about all this because everything seems so difficult. How is he suppose to start a fresh and do new things with his life if he is not allowed to do a lot of things due to his licence. How are we suppose to live a normal life in any way with all a licenec on our heads forever.It will be a life in prison but you just cant see the bars around you. Please please does anyone have any advice on any of this please.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      March 2, 2011 at 9:45 am

      We will be covering all this in our free Subscribers Magazine which you can get here. The implications of IPP and other restrictive sentences will be one of the subjects addressed in this month’s issue.Once you have signed up (it’s free, remember) please send me an email at and I will deal with the points you raise. Our new Advice Service will be opening later in the year which I am sure you will find helpful. – Administrator

  4. Patricia
    February 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    IPP could mean that someone serving a 3 year Ipp can end up serving more time then someone serving a life sentence with a a specified recommedation of say 10 years. They are giving these sentences to teenagers aged 17 and younger. Its not just the law itself but those who perpetuate this inhumane mode of sentencing by continuing to hand them down for no other reason than they can. Some of those handing down these sentences down appear to have no sense of what justice means. You can appeal and some of these sentences may be converted please all those who may have someone trying to appeal this sentence, research past cases and sight them, writeto the Ministry of Justice and your local MP, the more that do the more voice you will get.

    • John James
      September 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      It is letters like yours that touch me deeply because my wife and I know exactly what you’re going thro. 3 and a half years ago my brother-in-law got a 2 year IPP sentence. No only has he nearly doubled the tariff, but the prison he’s in doesn’t do the courses (set out by the courts before they can be considered for release)We only realised the seriousness of these tariffs about two years ago – so I set up sites. If you look up John James – theres a sign at the side stating ‘Supporting IPP prisoners’ – so far weve over 3,ooo supporters. Some are mothers, wives, loved ones and some are the public supporting this inhumane sentence. Together Iv helped them write letters to their local MP’s – then to Kenneth Clarke, and even David Cameron. Feeling like we’re spinning in circles, (desperately trying to keep my brother-in-law’s spirits up because theres just no light for these men) I am now taking it to ”PANORAMA’ televison. The public NEED to know the truth whats happening with our government. Many, many people assume that ALL IPP’s are a danger to the public when this is totally untrue. Those who are classed a danger aren’t getting any help anyway because theres cuts to prisons so theres no courses .. so basically if the probation and parole think they are a danger to the public theyll never get out.. AND YET THEYRE NOT MURDERERS .. So come on Patricia. I want you and everyone who reads this site to join every campaign, write and write every week if need be to your local MP AND to Kenneth Clarke AND David Cameron. They wanted our votes and they got our votes. They needed us.. Now WE NEED THEM!!! For the sake of our loved ones please will you ALL keep writing because eventually when they get sick of all the letters about this tariff they will have to act. If we stand back doing nothing.. so will they. God bless John J

      • Raymond Peytors -
        September 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm

        I wish you well in your efforts. Please let me know how things develop. – Editor

  5. lindsey
    February 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

    i am so pleased to see all the comments agreeing that the ipp sentances are barbaric.
    my boyfriend is serving ipp, 4 years into it, he can apply for parole after 5 years. he’s completed every course, behavioural programmes, passed several qualifications but yet cannot even get a parole board for a cat d hearing. almost a year hes been waiting for a parole board. its all well and good appealing for ken clarke to scrap future use of ipp….but what about the boys already in this mess???…nobody is saying these lads dont deserve to serve time for their crimes(my boyfriend was given ipp for a fight,he isnt a danger to society) but give them hope! a goal to work towards! how can they expect a prisoner serving ipp to be positive about the future when they are in such a negative situation with no hope for a future????….this doesnt make sense to me!!!

    • Raymond Peytors -
      February 20, 2011 at 10:25 am

      Your boyfriend is one of thousands who are subject to the nightmare that is IPP. We keep our visitors informed of developments on IPPs, etc through our free Subscribers Magazine/Newsletter which you can get by clicking HERE. You may find it helpful.

      • Alissia
        February 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

        I am so appalled at the way the judges vary the sentences and deal out IPP’s. This week in the Northampton Mercury (local free paper) it is reported that a man KILLED – strangled his partner in the bed that they shared and failed to call the police until 2 days later. He killed someone and only got 2 years. My son for a lesser crime, got 10 years and IPP. These sentences were dealt out by the same judge in the Northampton Crown Court. How can he justify the difference in the sentences. And likewise as your boyfriend got 5 years for fighting. The law seems to have gone crazy, Where will it all end. The judges and the unfair and unrelenting Probationary Services have the lives of these people in their hands and they do it because they can… because they have the power and the power has gone to their heads. We need to try to get this barbaric action to the attention of the Court of European Human Rights. Someone with the know how on how to do this please help us. Not only do we need to keep fighting for our own loved ones but also for the poor prisoners who have no one on the outside to fight their cause. We desperatley need help.

  6. Bubbles
    January 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I think IPP should be abollished they are causing overcrowding in prisons and costing the government far too much money! and i know for a fact they give them out like they are candy to people who are not even a danger to society, i have a relative who has been given an IPP and he has no previous convictions, never been in trouble with the police before this recent allegation and now he is in prison he has been upgraded to enhanced due to his good behaviour he is has a job helping the less mobile people on his wing, and even the govenor of the prison commented to me when visiting ” if only all my prisoners where are well behaved as this one”. David Blunkett who knows maybe one day one of your family members will receive an IPP and then you will realise just how unfair this system is!! Shame on you !! The idea of an IPP is to give them to people who are a danger to the public, but this system is abused on a daily basis and just dished out to people when they do not even fall into the dangerous catergory! its disgusting that this is allowed to happening with out the goverment even questioning it!

    • Andromeda -
      January 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

      The Government are currently carrying out a review of IPP sentences. More details are available in the current edition of our Newsletter (sign up in the green box at the top of the page).

      It should be remembered though that everyone in the current government who was an MP when IPPs were introduced voted in favour of IPPs. Highly criticised though it is, the sentence certainly won’t be scrapped, though it may be modified.

      • Bubbles
        January 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

        thank you for your reply, If they use the ipp sentencing correctly it will be a vast improvment, but judges just seem to give them out like they have a target to meet!! i have said i wanted them abollished for this reason, if IPP’s are used correctely and given to people that really are a danger to society and not just anyone who the Judges dont like the look of, then this will be a vast improvement!! but i feel currently the system is being abused 🙁

  7. rosie cash
    January 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    i have to say i think you are all right about the ipp,it is a sham david blunkett dont take his life in away that he has up set how lifes,i bloody hate that man he must never sleep at night for what he has dun to ppl,i just hope ken clark can change things for the poor ppl in prison with the ipp,well said carlo david blunkett should be made to accept the misery and torture he as cosed,

  8. Justice
    January 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    You keep human beings in a prison, confined to a cell for the majority of daylight hours, with no hope of release as they do not have a release date to work to.
    Would you people in authority and government keep your animals caged up for days, weeks, months, years on end or maybe life. the answer is NO…. There would be an uproar…..
    Are animals of more importance than human beings????
    Is human life worthless??
    PLEASE stop these endeterminate sentences they are digusting and should never have been passed by the MP David Plunkett who himself showed that he was less than virtuous himself.

    • rosie cash
      February 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      i just wont to say well said

  9. Worried
    January 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I am a relative on an IPP sentenced prisoner who because he would not commit to the Prison rules and regulations and the probationery services dictatorial ways, was sent from a prison on the mainland, where his family could visit and support him, was transported to a prison on the Isle of Wight. They now have him where he has no hope of help or assistance in his endeavour to try to prove his innocence because no one listens and no one cares. These IPP prisoners are kept on long term sentences so that the prison system can secure jobs as Prison Officers, Probationery Officers (who are no help whatsoever in fact hinder any prisoner on an IPP sentence from ever being released. They want to secure their jobs at anyones expence. Its a matter of I am OK jack your families and friends can suffer and worry and the children of these families can cry and miss their loved ones and, who knows or cares, because of the injustices of these Probationery Services insensitive and self preservation behaviour prevents the return of their dearly loved parent, brother, uncle, mother, aunt should I go on and on and on…Scrap these barbaric ipp sentences NOW for the sake of humanity.

    • rosie cash
      February 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      what is going on with the goverment thay are always talking about saveing money,think of the money thay would save if thay get ride of the ipp,and some of the roges that work to keep ipp in side,i hope some one of their famileys gets ipp,and see how thay would like it,put the bloody roges of the goverment in prison for a few years i bet thay would get the ipp lifted them…

  10. Paul
    January 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    With all the information you have, should set up a members advice service. I’d happily pay a reasonable monthly subscription to know I can get help when I need it.

  11. A
    January 13, 2011 at 3:42 am

    These prisoners are suffering to get into courses so they can prove that they are no risk to the public. And I really don’t understand how can someone prove that… It is injustice to these people and their family, the judges should not pass such horrible sentance. People do change but it is impossible to prove this to others so can they do this with the parole board and these courses they have to do for long can they wait for it? If there is anyonnewhouse need help then its these people they are helpless … Please whoever can help them should do so…

  12. rita lister
    January 12, 2011 at 1:04 am

    i totally agree with michelle above this sentence should never have been made law its a total nightmare,my son has never been in trouble before and did something daft which he admits to,he has done a course and has come to terms with what he has done he got a 4 yrs determinate sentence but prosecution thort that too lenient and was given a 3 yr indeterminate one instead its a barbaric sentence and totaly unjust my son tried to commit suicide i am doing this sentence too it needs abolishing its against human rights to be locked up without a date for release hope ken clarke can see the plight we are in and end this suffering for prisoners and families on this sentence.

  13. Michelle Cowling
    January 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I am totally appalled that so called people in “power” can treat prisoners like they do in order to protect themselves, they may deserve to be punished but to be locked up and just be forgotten about is completely disgusting. My son received an IPP sentence for fighting and as now served 3 and half years on a 5 year IPP sentence which puts him 12 months over his tarrif and still we wait for news of when this nightmare will be over for him and our family. IPP needs to be abolished and the sooner the better.

    • Carol Murphy
      January 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      I totally agree with all the comments above and as stated it is not only the prisoner who serves these indeterminate sentences but the whole of the family unit. My son is being bullied by Probation Officers to admit his crime and show his remorse, even though he is appealing his conviction and sentence. This process in itself can take years. My son has never been convicted or been incarserated and I think the government are evil in mind to deal these IPP sentences out. The people who have been given these ipps are helpless and have no way of proving that they are not a danger to society. Please for God’s sake help all the people whether prisoners or their relations in their plight. There is no avenue for then to seek help. My son has tried to committ self harm (take his own life). David Blunkett should be made to understand and accept the horrific torture and misery he has bestowed on all involved in these sentences. He was not so clean living himself.

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