The Truth About IPP Sentences

IPP sentence reforms in danger as Cameron fears tabloid backlash

IPP sentence reform may be too much for Cameron

IPP sentence reform may be too much for Cameron

Westminster sources close to Number 10 have revealed that weak Prime Minister David Cameron is so worried about the political effects of a tabloid led backlash to the proposed reforms of the IPP sentence, that he is reconsidering whether or not to reverse the government’s stated intention to get rid of it.

The recent announcement by the government that it was “minded” to repeal the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) has sparked the possibility of a major offensive against Kenneth Clarke’s radical proposals.

Although scrapping the sentence is absolutely necessary in order to save money, for Cameron, it may be too high a political price to pay.

Right wing Tory MPs, the police and probation services and of course, the tabloid press are all apparently getting ready to kill off the repeal of the much maligned sentence. It seems that Mr. Cameron is so concerned about appearing to be ‘soft on crime’ that there is the distinct possibility of the reforms being ‘kicked into the long grass’ or possibly even being scrapped altogether.

The right-wing Tory MP Philip Davies last week stated in Parliament that to scrap IPP’s would be to “damage the Conservative brand”. Mr. Davies, who has been a thorn in the side of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke ever since Mr. Clarke assumed office believes that, “…the IPP sentence is the only part of the Criminal Justice System that seems to work.” Other right wing MPs on both sides of the house are slowly but surely grouping around Mr. Davies and others in a concerted effort to oppose the repeal of IPP sentences.

While it is obvious that David Cameron is possibly the weakest Prime Minister that this country has ever had, it is equally true that he is also particularly susceptible to the influence of the Sun and Daily Mail newspapers, perhaps even more so than his predecessor, Tony Blair.

Mr. Cameron is perfectly willing to sell his own soul if necessary in order to avoid bad headlines in the tabloids.

To make sense of Cameron’s hesitation to get rid of IPP’s, one need only remind oneself that were it not for the government’s current shortage of money, the Conservatives would actually be building more prisons and locking up even more people for even longer.

Their intention to do so was in their election manifesto and when it comes to law and order, the Conservative party is predictably opportunistic and only too willing to use prisoners as a political football in a game that is all about scoring cheap points by bringing in populist policies; a strategy learned directly from Blair.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats and their leader, Nick Clegg are nauseatingly silent on the issue of IPP sentences.

They are so concerned with wallowing in the limited power that they now have that they  too are prepared to sell their own principles down the river. We have already seen that they are prepared to do this over issues such as university tuition fees and the rise in VAT. Now, it seems IPP sentences are to be treated the same way.

In contrast to the weak and cowardly Mr. Cameron, Kenneth Clarke is neither afraid of the tabloid press nor his political opponents.

Indeed, has a degree of respect for Mr. Clarke who was and is prepared to stand up for what he believes is right, even in the face of treachery from his own side. If the repeal of IPP sentences does not go ahead it will not be the fault of Mr. Clarke but that of the ever more pathetic Mr. Cameron.

However, it must also be acknowledged that even if the IPP sentence were scrapped tomorrow, it would take at least a year for those measures to be put into effect and for a replacement regime to come into force.

Anybody who thinks that IPP sentences are going to disappear quickly better think again for nothing could be further from the truth if the current state of play at Westminster is anything to go by.

Much more importantly, no mention at all has been made of the biggest problem of all: what to do about releasing those prisoners who are currently serving IPP sentences.

In his recent statement, Clarke acknowledged that only 6% of the current 6,500 IPP prisoners have ever been released.

This ridiculously low release rate is mainly due to the fact that prisoners can only be released if they are shown to be of “minimal risk” to the public. Mr. Clarke himself acknowledged that it is virtually impossible for an IPP prisoner to prove this dramatic reduction in risk whilst he is in custody.

Not only are the necessary rehabilitative courses largely unavailable to those who need them most but even when courses are satisfactory completed, the heavily biased risk assessments – often written by young, female, risk averse probation officers – are very unlikely to recommend release back into the community without even more courses first been completed. Courses and programmes that are simply not available in suitable numbers and which may not be effective anyway.

Originally, Mr. Clarke alluded to the fact that he wanted to introduce a ‘formalised release test’ of some description or other which would be used by the Parole Board, separated from assessments made by the Probation Service, in order to ascertain whether or not an IPP prisoner who had completed his tariff was fit to be released back into society.

This absolutely vital proposal, which seemed eminently sensible to everyone, now seems to have vanished into thin air.

The new ‘release test’¬† was not mentioned in Mr. Clarke statement in the Commons last week, it was not mentioned in last Wednesday’s debate on the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill and no statement on the proposed introduction of such a formalised test has been forthcoming from 10 Downing Street.

In fact, the IPP sentence is not mentioned in the new Bill at all, presumably because it is the subject of separate legislation that will be necessary in order to get rid of IPP’s and replace them with something else.

All of this does not bode well for those who have family members or loved ones inside and who want to know not only when IPP’s will be scrapped but also what is going to happen to those people who are already serving an indeterminate sentence. can confidently, if regrettably state that Mr. Clarke will not be immediately releasing the 3,000 or so IPP prisoners who are already well past their tariff expiry date. It must be remembered that not only have these prisoners often been described as being “dangerous” to the public but they will also be on licence for a minimum of 10 years after they have finally been released from prison.

Quite clearly, it would be political suicide to facilitate any type of mass release of prisoners who although perhaps being wrongly classified in many cases, still have the “dangerous” label attached to them. David Cameron may be weak and he may be a coward but even he is not that stupid.

It is likely therefore that any reform or repeal of IPP sentences may take many, many months in order to come to fruition and much worse than that is the fact that there seems to be no provision being offered at present in order to solve the problem of those who are currently serving an IPP and who are long past their tariff expiry date.

One must also point out that until such time that the IPP is finally removed from the Statute Book, the sentence remains in force and another 80 IPP prisoners are added to the numbers every month.

The best that the families and friends of current IPP prisoners can do is to make as much noise as possible to their MP, the Shadow Justice Secretary and any sympathetic outlets they may find, including, whilst at the same time preparing for the long haul.

To be as effective as possible, those protesting against the IPP sentence in any arena also need to be as well informed as possible about the workings of the sentence. Frankly, there is little point in arguing with your MP about something of which you have only limited knowledge.

To be truly effective when trying to persuade politicians to get rid of IPP sentences, one has to know more than the MP, not less.

It is a fair bet that we will hear nothing more from the government regarding IPP sentences until after the summer recess; in other words, October at the earliest.

Only then will we get a true indication of how serious the government is about getting rid of this dreadful sentence that causes so much unhappiness to so many people, is often given because the judge has no choice in the matter and which is in essence a political sentence that was introduced for purely political reasons by Tony Blair.

The bottom line is that until the government makes up its mind as to how it is going to deal with the 6,500 thousand people who are currently serving IPP sentences, it is unlikely that they will make any real progress with regard to repealing the sentence itself.

Being “minded” to get rid of the sentence is not the same as actually banishing it into legal history. If the government were certain about the way that it was going to handle this most difficult of political problems, they would have made it clear by now.

The fact that they have now started yet another “review” of IPP sentences illustrates perhaps more clearly than anything else that they simply do not know how to solve this particular problem without at the same time inviting political meltdown.

It takes political strength to solve the IPP problem; strength that Mr. Clarke may have in abundance but which is spectacularly lacking from the man who is ultimately in charge, David Cameron.

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14 Responses to IPP sentence reforms in danger as Cameron fears tabloid backlash

  1. m tuffin
    February 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    as the mother of a prisoner tht has jst been handed a ipp sentence i still dont understand how the probation office after a 60min vidio confrence wth my son can then wright a report to the courts saying that he is a very dangoures person outlaying all the same points as the cps did in the hearing even though he plead guilty and did not take part in the crime but was there so was charged because he never steped in to stop it but the actual offered has yet to be charged my son is by no means a angle but he is neither a dangourse person he had a youth conviction and this was also brought up but he paid for this i think its terriable tht thease people have no hope left after being handed a ipp their is not the corses avlabe to do and it also stops them from doing any thing to better themselfs as once they hva a ipp and are deemed a dangour to the public they are not allowed to do certain corses as they wll pose a threat

    • Raymond Peytors -
      February 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      You may want to click HERE where you will find the answers to your questions and a great deal more important information.- Editor

  2. Anna Travers
    September 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Please help spread and share this petition, time to step up the game to get this abolished …

    • Raymond Peytors -
      September 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm does not usually allow URLs to third party sites. This is in order to minimise spam and maintain the security of the site. In this case however, given the gravity of the situation regarding IPP sentences, we are delighted to be of assistance. I would urge everyone who feels strongly about the injustice of IPPs to join the petition. – Editor

  3. CAR
    July 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I agree totally in relation to Probation officers who are untrained to the level excpected to deal with the indeterminate sentenced inmates (IPP) ie. they do not have any mental health, physical health qualifications, or know what/how to ask questions to obtain the answers to enable the PO’s to assist the inmates in a positive manner. These PO’s hinder rather than help to encourage and support these poor inmates. The PO’s want to keep these inmates locked up for as long as they can so that their own jobs are secured. The more they keep these inmates locked up the longer they have their jobs for. It’s not a matter of helping the inmates but making sure there is enought ‘super glue’ to keep their bottoms on seats (PO’s jobs) It has also been highlighted that the Oasys reports are conducted on a points scoring basis to include automatic scoring, would you believe it. The automatic scoring is based on previous information, behaviours etc.(Sometimes this previous information and actions have been wrongly advised and relayed on previous reports/correspondence. All these reports are compiled by inexperienced PO’s who do not have the correct training, qualifications or experience on how to evaluate and deal with the different personalities etc. It is known that you have to know how to put questions to gain the necessary answers to enable the point scoring to work. Also previous information that the PO’s have received goes a long way to the automatic scoring process. If these PO’s don’t know how to ask questions then they are not going to get the answers that will enable a positive Oasys Report. How can the contents of 1 or 2 Oasys manuals cover the responses of all individuals and how the hell does the automatic scoring work based on a scoring card using one or two manaual/s to cover all situations/personalities/incidents and illnesses. This point scoring system is a crime in itself and does not work in a positive manner in any way. I know from experience of this report on our son. Incorrect information, incorrect results of questioning because the supposed questions where not put to the inmate in the correct manner etc. Mind you these reports do give a good score on any negative points, how suprising is this. I will say no more and just hope that something is done not only to withdraw these abhorent and inhumane IPP sentences but to draw attention to the lack of knowledge, qualifications that the Probationary Services provide in their aim to, dare I say it, SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE these prisoners. There no or very little support to the families of these IPP inmates although it is reported that there are Family Support units. They no how to talk the talk but at the end of it all you are no further off with any problems that you may be having.

  4. Petronella
    July 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Truely this has no justification, how on earth can the PM be so weak, to this extent, bending over to the Tabloids like this. We are concerned about post sentenced IPP prisoners not bags of potatoes. There is the need for an agent positive respond to this filthy way of sentencing. If 7000 plus others in support of the scrapping of IPP know that it’s so wrong while a handful of those in power think it’s so right. The ratio spells out that something is definately wrong. How can someone not pay attention to so much out cry. Mr prime minister where is your logical thinking cap gone. This whole thing is not working, read the psi33/2009 it doesn’t get anyone anyway. The judge passes sentence the prison gives you it’s own sentence the probation service do the same. Thats how it feels like.

    • Petronella
      July 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Now that Murdoch has been laid off I was wondering where we stand now as far as IPP sentence reforms, hopefully this makes an impact for the better.

      • Raymond Peytors -
        July 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm

        Murdoch himself has not been laid off or greatly affected. As for IPPs and the penal system, real change of any kind will only come when ministers across the last 10 years or so are found to have been manipulated by the Murdcoch press. Don’t forget too that the Sun is also owned by Murdoch and will continue as normal, perhaps even filling the gap left by the News of the World. Murdoch and those who read his rubbish like to bash people who are perceived as breaking the law. I am sorry to say that will not change, certainly not all the time people buy his tacky tabloid papers. – RP

  5. CAR
    July 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I an disgusted at the whole outlook that David Cameron has on this issue. He needs to grow a pair of balls and say to hell with what the tabloids say/think let me do what is right (under the EU) and ENGLISH LAW for these poor inmates who, many of them, have never committed a previous crime and have had these sentences imposed on them by POWER WEILDING Judges who dish these IPP’s out like smarties just because they can and it makes them feel powerful. I would love them to be in the same position as some of these IPP’s inmates. Especially those who have been unfairly treated and had a judge use his own power to direct the jury in their verdit. What on earth happened to our English Law a person is ‘innocent until proved guilty’, It would now appear that the accused is GUILTY until he can prove HER/HIMSELF innocent which is almost an impossibilty once you are incarcerated. There are many, many more that you could appreciated that have been the victims of a miss trial but cannot prove it because all the help that they can get is from untrained, unfeeling, and uncaring Probationary Officers who continue to say and claim that the accussed is ‘IN DENIAL’. What a load of shit this is. These Probationary Officers just want to keep as many people inside as they can for as long as they can to secure their own jobs. Let proffessional fully trained psycologists do a proper job. The Probation Officers/Services have no idea on how to write reports with genuine fact they just take on board and produce a damming report or whatever to enable the accused to remain behind bars….to keep their own bums on seats for job security. How heartless is this system. What happed to a persons right to a FAIR/UNBIASED and EQUALLY CONSISTENT SENTENCING at trial and sentencing.

    • uzma ghafoor
      July 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      yes i totally agree with your comment.”what happend to a persons rights” yes totally my question, what did happen to that and what about the family of the inmates? arent we people what happend to our rights what about chilren dont they have husband had a very very unfair trial in which he protested his innocence but nobody would beleive him he was labelled as a dangerous criminal,the way the police treated us all in the process to his arrest was appaling they had already made their minds up about him before he was tried at the end with no sufficient evidence he was found guilty and was given a inditerminate sentence of 15years ipp with 12 years running concurrent.he says he is innocent and trying everything in his power to appeal, i on the other hand feel helpless although i am on the outside.we have 2 children 7 and 9,3years of our lifes have gone by since he has been sentenced this gets me frustated as he is missing out on his children growing up they will be adults when he is released (if he ever does) i am missing out on my husband and the life we should be spending together as a family,we are only one of the lots that are going through this,so many people all over the country may be going through husbands situation is definetly a miscarriage of justice or dodgy justice system workers you cant trust anyone thse husband trys very hard to keep me feeling positive and that we will be successful with the appeal,i personaly dont feel too confident about that, if they can get it wrong once surely it could happen again and i worry they might give him a longer sentence,this might be me being naieve but the justice system have made me feel this way.i personaly feel if he wasnt given the ipp sentence i would cope with it better and definetly feel it should be wiped out, it is inhumane and inmates actually end up commiting more crimes when behind bars as this is damaging for inmates mentaly. what about the protection of the other inmates?ipp is for protection of others what about the inmates that are at risk by the so called ipp inmates….its a vicious circle they put inmates in to and in the end the probation make it worse by keeping them behind bars……

  6. Janice
    July 3, 2011 at 11:04 am

    The news of the torys being scared and not grown up about IPP sentences is very distressing for parents who children or young boys have been deemed devils and dangerous at such an young age. Surely, the IPP sentence is mainly for serious adult offenders who have served more than one sentence of over five years, especially when young offenders could have been dealt and monitored with available and easy thought of systems to ensure the public are protected. It seems that they either leave people living dead in jail or put some money in from their cuts and create proper rehabilitative courses.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      July 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

      The IPP sentence and its origins are extremely complex. You, like very many others will find the answers to all your questions in the book available by clicking HERE

  7. jen
    July 3, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I suppose we should’t expect anything else from an ex-Etonian prime minister. Pompous, arrogant and uncaring about ordinary people. I shall follow the advice in the article and give my MP absolute hell. He’ll end up having nightmares about me.

  8. Ramon1940
    July 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    David Cameron will only do what the Business Comunity want and does not care one iota about the rest of the Public want, he has proved that by taking on more regulations from the EU and also refusing to hold a much wanted referendum on the EU, we should not hold our breath on IPP sentences. Ken Clarke is a much more experienced politician than Cameron will ever be, Ken Clarke also knows the damage that has, and is being done to Men and their families through this IPP sentence, he also knows that the Courts/Police “Get it Wrong”. Trainee probation officers abound in prisons and the risk assessment should not be left to them, it should be done by very experienced Psychiatrists/Psycologists.

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