The Truth About IPP Sentences

IPP, CRB and Sentencing Review consultation is now closed – what next?

The consultation period for the sentencing review and IPP sentences introduced by the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has now concluded.

Everybody will now wait with bated breath to discover what the conclusions of the review are. However, for the government this review is full of major difficulties, not least the fact that whatever they do and whatever they decide is certain to make somebody very unhappy.

If Ken Clarke achieves his objective of reducing the prison population that would upset victims groups and the tabloid newspapers; it may also encourage criticism of the government for being "soft" on crime.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has already announced that the policy on CRB checks is to be reviewed. Once again, any softening of the regulations currently in force would invite criticism from children's charities and victims groups, not to mention the parliamentary opposition.

The most difficult decisions however will be reserved for the subject of IPP sentences, the nightmare originally created by New Labour and which is promising to be the most contentious issue of all when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system.

So what exactly can we expect from Mister Clarke's review? Another interesting question might be as to when we can expect the results from the review. Certainly, does not imagine for one moment that this government or indeed any other government will be in any hurry to announce its decisions.

Nevertheless, we can make some educated guesses as to exactly what may be contained in the revisions when they are finally announced. We must point out that this is an educated guess but it is nevertheless a guess. The whole idea of reviewing anything to do with crime and criminal policy is laden with difficulties and dangers for any political party, let alone a dodgy coalition.

It is likely that the IPP sentence will not be abolished despite many calls for it to be removed from the Statute Book. The Prison Reform trust, NACRO and countless other bodies and individuals together with judges and even some politicians have all voiced doubts and displeasure at what is probably the most badly drafted and badly thought-out piece of criminal legislation ever introduced into the United Kingdom.

The problem for the government however is that whatever they do with IPP sentences, someone is bound to complain. Rupert Murdoch and his media empire are just waiting to pounce on the government and accuse them of being soft when it comes to dealing with serious criminals. The bloodlust of the tabloid newspapers in the UK is astonishing when it comes to removing any hope of release and rehabilitation from those locked up in British jails.

In 2008 the restrictions on judicial discretion when handing down IPP sentences were changed to ensure that if the minimum to be served was less than two years, an IPP sentence could not be passed.

Whilst this was a good idea at the time it actually was made very little difference to the numbers of people who are serving IPP sentences and it has made no difference whatsoever to the plight of those who are up to six years past their minimum tariff.

The argument over CRB checks is likely to go on and on regardless of what measures may be contained in any revisions put forward by the government. There is little doubt that the restrictions and requirements will be relaxed to a certain extent but the government will still not deal with the subject of "hidden evidence" which is the most damaging element of all when deciding whether or not somebody should be allowed to work with children or vulnerable adults.

Matters are made considerably worse for the government by the fact that they still have to deal with court rulings from both the European Court of Human Rights and from the British Supreme Court regarding the voting rights of prisoners and the right of sex offenders to have their names removed from the sex offenders register.

Once again, the government seems in no hurry to announce its decisions on these highly controversial issues. (There is much more on this in our FREE Subscribers Magazine available HERE)

It may even be that the government tries to keep its decisions on IPP sentences quiet or it may attempt to bury the decisions on a day when other news is likely to supersede it. This tactic is unlikely to work however as there are plenty of people sitting around just waiting for the government to bury itself in one of the deepest holes it has ever had the misfortune to dig.

For those serving IPP sentences and for others who are still unemployed as a result of an unfavorable CRB check suggest that they sit quietly and wait and see what happens for it is certain that changes will be made.

The unfortunate thing is that these changes to IPP sentences and CRB checks may take a long time to be announced and even longer to be implemented.

5 Responses to IPP, CRB and Sentencing Review consultation is now closed – what next?

  1. stephen
    June 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Just hurry up and decide what your gonna do with IPP’s either get rid of it completly and change there sentances or shut up about it. JUDGES suck

  2. diane
    April 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I used to purchase Rupert Murdoch papers i now refuse to buy his papers as he is not willing to give ipps a chance if everyone with relatives and loved ones did the same he would sell a lot less papers and this would reduce the power he seems to have

  3. laura
    April 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    what happens if an ipp prisoner has got all his courses done and is down graded to a cat d prisoner can they be released on tarif date

    • Charles Hanson
      April 14, 2011 at 3:08 am

      Very few lifers or indeed IPP prisoners are actually released on tariff expiry. These groups of prisoners have to spend a period in open conditions to be ‘tested’ as they say with day release, home leaves, voluntary work and finally paid employment. Then there’s home circumstances reports to be prepared and they can put a big obstacle to release and it’s common for probation to impose exclusion zones in the area where the index offence occurred, in some cases of many miles.
      Then there’s the Parole Board to pass but one good thing is that their decision to release is binding whereas their RECOMMENDATION to move to open to open conditions (D Category) is NOT binding and has to be accepted by the Secretary of State who can block the recommendation and often does keeping the lifer/IPP in closed conditions for some 2 years before another Parole Board review.
      Completing all the courses is no guarantee of release and becomes meaningless if risk assessments like the Offender Assessment Systems (OASyS) or the Offender Group Reconviction Scale (OGRS), the Psychopathy Checklist and other risk assessments marks one down as being too high a risk.
      Following release, a lifer/IPP will be likely to have to spend the initial period say 6 months in a supervised probation hostel with all its rules and curfews etc.
      He or she can also be expected to undertake courses after release and attend hostel meetings and other restrictions.
      It really has become a lot tougher to get released.
      The latest figures show that of the 1,530 lifer cases heard by the Parole Board just 172 were released on life licence or 11%. This has fallen from the lifer release rate of 15% in 2008/09. Of the 1,432 IPPs who were considered for release only 68 were released which is only 5%, down from 8% in 2008/09.
      Some of these lifers would have served years over tariff and some would have been recalled lifers.
      Lifers/IPPs are now almost 10% of the prison population and it’s not getting better.
      Don’t believe that completing courses is the end all of everything.
      I did all my courses and achieved diplomas in various areas of psychology and law, was never placed on report, never failed a drug or alcohol test and had good support outside, yet I did 2 years over tariff.

  4. Charles Hanson
    April 13, 2011 at 9:08 am

    As a lifer released on life licence in 2009, I saw many examples whilst inside of IPPs and indeed lifers who were held back from progressing towards eventual because of the unscientific nature of risk assessments and one thing always seemed to stand out in any assessment whether it be the OASyS, OGRS and other risk assessments and that was they were always based on past behaviour and the index offence.
    It’s as if one is always defined by the past and it becomes so subjective that it renders the whole area of risk assessment as meaningless and gives no weight to how people change over time.
    None are more active in this area than probation officers and prison psychologists, many who tick boxes, have little or no life experience, with trainee psychologists and psychology assistants who are no more than servants of the prison service who fund them through their degrees. What can one expect of those who are unlikely to be independent minded but rely on their paymasters for their bread and butter?
    Since my release and being in contact with many lifers still imprisoned I am hearing of many courses which have been developed since my release and other new tools of risk assessment which have also been brought into play that I fear we will end up with a situation that it will become virtually impossible for any lifer/IPP to be released.
    These courses which are developed by both prison psychologists and academics are no more than a gravy train for the authors who hold the copyright.
    Many years ago the Home Office purchased under licence a programme called Reasoning and Rehabilitation from T3 Associates in Canada.
    This 36 session course was held as the panacea to reduce offending behavior.
    It was developed by 3 ex non-psychologist employees of the Canadian Correctional Services.
    Follow up research some years later showed that the offending rates of those who had completed the course was not significantly different to those who had not undertaken it.
    It was scrapped whilst other similar courses were developed all based on the same concepts. Old Wine in New Bottles.
    A total waste of money which did nothing for the socio-economic improvement of the offenders or providing them with skills which would give them a stake in the community.
    Everything is risk with these people that I think they see it coming out of the woodwork and they are so obsessed that I think it is they who are a risk to people.
    See Inside Time, the national prisoners newspaper for my articles;
    The Changing Face of Probation. August 2007
    Probation Officers, Friend or Foe? February 2009
    An Open Challenge. [To Prison Psychologists]. June 2008
    Thinking Skills;Think Again [Prison Courses]. May 2009
    Dehumanising Process of Risk Assessment. December 2009
    An Open Letter to Michael Howard. August 2010
    Prison Psychologists, Biased Practitioners. September 2010
    Recall and More Recall. October 2010
    Kenneth Clark’s Green Paper. January 2011.
    Innocent Lifers and Their Dilemma. March 2011

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