The Truth About IPP Sentences

IPP Sentence Review – consultation process now open

(Use the search box to the left for updates and much more on IPP sentences or click here for more information)

After the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke unveiled his Green Paper on Sentencing and Prison Policy this week, we are all left wondering what, if any changes will be made to the current system, particularly with regard to the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). shares the view of the Prison Reform Trust that the IPP should be scrapped and consigned to history. Meanwhile, right wing Tory MPs, the child protection lobby and victims groups are all screaming in pain and suffering trauma at the very thought of this appalling piece of penal legislation being tampered with in any way whatsoever.

The IPP is regarded by most sensible people as being a total disaster. Hugely over-prescribed, impossible to administer, probably unlawful and put in place by the discredited Home Secretary, David Blunkett to satisfy the Sun newspaper and noisy child protection zealots, all of whom have a vested interest in keeping the fear of sex offenders, wife beaters and other violent criminals in the public mind.

Clarke has proposed, sensibly, that the IPP should be used only where the convicted person would receive a sentence of at least 10 years. This figure is not necessarily what it seems however.

For example, the Justice Secretary has also proposed giving a discount of 50% on a sentence if the accused pleads guilty at the police station, the earliest opportunity for him to do so. Therefore, someone who would be likely to get a sentence of say 14 years could have that halved to 7 and thus be well outside the criteria for the IPP.

That is not a bad thing in the view of as very many of those currently serving IPP sentences were given them because the judge had no choice but to use the sentence, thanks to completely inflexible ‘guidelines’ laid down in Statute. Many IPP prisoners are not violent or dangerous at all. Clarke has therefore proposed getting rid of the guidelines and giving judges much more discretion.

Sara Payne moaned, “We have spent years campaigning for IPPs”. So what?

A long campaign does not make it a just sentence; nor does it mean that it is right to lock people up until they can prove that they are safe to release when everyone knows that it is impossible to do that in the confines of a prison. Hence the fact that under the proposals a new ‘release test’ will be designed so that the Parole Board can make a genuine and validated decision as to whether someone is still a risk or not.

It is a pity that the same test will not be applied by small minded probation officers when it comes to considering whether or not a person on licence should be recalled to custody.

IPP sentences are applied to convicted sex offenders more than any other group of convicted persons. Clarke was careful not to point this out in his Green Paper and equally careful not to mention the fact in his statement to Parliament. To do so would have been to admit that the sentence was simply a populist response to campaigners like Payne and others. Such an admission would be to expose the myth that the IPP sentence received proper scrutiny and criticism prior to its introduction when everyone knows that actually the opposite is true. believes that if someone is truly dangerous they should receive a life sentence, not an IPP which is the same thing in all but name but was introduced to force a life sentence even where the evidence did not warrant one. A true example of the British following the US administration in its quest to incarcerate more and more of its citizens for longer and longer.

Clarke has 12 weeks to consider submissions to his consultation. hopes that many of the families and friends of those serving IPPs will contribute to that process.

Responses to the consultation can be submitted directly through the Ministry of Justice website at, via email to or by post to Breaking the Cycle, Ministry of Justice, 10.08, 10th Floor, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ.

This is a once in a generation opportunity to get rid of this appalling law or at least reduce its use significantly. Make sure you have your say, whichever way you feel.

28 Responses to IPP Sentence Review – consultation process now open

  1. Nathan Chadwick
    April 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I have only just come accross the facts of IPP sentences, and to i am so disgusted that people are being locked away with no possible sign of coming home.
    So serious of crimes should carry a life sentence, with also a possibilty of parole for treatment programmes and good behaviour etc, all those who say life should be life, if they fail the programmes then they would not be coming out,
    Any other offence, should be a determinate sentence simple as, ie under 10 year sentences should be a determinate sentence, and on the 2nd or 3rd simlar offence, the period in custody doubles, but with an release date to look forward to.

    I am all for lobbying the goverment to make changes, and we should dget as many people as possible to write a standard letter to our MPS to forward.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      April 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Perhaps you should also join the discussion in our IPP forum. Click on the Forum link at the top of the page.- Editor

  2. Bev
    September 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I feel there is no support for families.My son had a 2 year IPP and he’s been away for 4years now. He’s moved to 10 prisons in that time due to not having the right courses available (they say) My son self harmed cutting himself up ,then they moved him to a mental hospital and to sort out his medication due to being on to many. After 11 WEEKS they have said he has bipolar…schizoeffective disorder and pd (personality disorder) but then changed it again. They want him to go a PD unit to be assessed then back to prison, then he MIGHT get out. He has been sentenced for taking drugs and theft. They say he took drugs because he’s ill..self medicating. So…my question is, after 9 years of theft drug abuse ect why was he given an IPP and not send to a hospital.

  3. Amanda Sumner
    June 5, 2011 at 9:11 am

    My son was served an IPP sentence in 2006.He handed himself in and admitted he had done the crime and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. However he was still sentenced to over 5 years which was later reduced to 4 after appeal. The victims family was reassured that this made no difference as he will not be able to come out until he proves he will no longer be a danger to society. How can a prisoner do that ? He is now over his tariff and I feel he is being kept in prison for crimes he MIGHT do when/if he gets out !This is an unfair system and is cruel to both prisoner and his family. One needs to have hope and a goal to strive for , a little light at the end of a tunnel. These IPP sentences were originally for repeated sex offenders or paedophiles but violence, ie fighting were then also added. I have even heard of people doing theft given IPPs.
    Another fact that has not really been mentioned here is the fact that prisoners , if they do get out , will also be on life licence , which means they can go back to prison at a whim , if a probation officer feels the need , without even a court hearing ! Time to scrap this Barbaric sentencing and replace it with something fairer . A sentence with proper guide lines , training and real objectives that can be achieved with minimum and maximum tariffs so the prisoner knows when he will get out.

    • Jane
      June 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

      You are asking the same questions that I did. I couldn’t understand any of this. So I bought the book on How to Survive an IPP from the opinion site. All my questions are answered and I have been able to tell my son how the system works and the best way to work for his release. I highly recommend it. For the sake of a few pounds all your questions ar answered. If you can’t change the law you can at least understand it. It is a terrible law but without sites like this we wouldn’t know anything. You have to do things the right way to beat the system and the book is the only place i have ever seen how to. Don’t give up but find out what you need to know.

      • Bev
        September 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        Thankyou for the advise on the book I shall be buying it.

    • Petronella
      August 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

      Ban and remove IPP Sentencing for prisoners – e-petitions

      Please people sign that petition. I don’t even know what to do, where to turn too.

      • Raymond Peytors -
        August 21, 2011 at 10:58 am

        I have put a link to the ePetitions site here

  4. peggy
    March 1, 2011 at 8:22 am

    my son is serving 4 year ipp. he was only 16 when he got involved in a fight with three other boys. I dont agree with fighting and yes they have to be punished, but giving them these ipp is inhumane. The judges mislead them when they give these ipps. They are not explained at all, the judge said that if my son behaved and did all that was expected of him then he would be released at the end of tariff – dont think so…He has been enhanced after 8 weeks, model prisoner etc done all his courses, but 1st parole turned down – another course to do!!! another parole next month, but wont raise my hopes. They dont realise the effects of this BARBARIC sentence on the prisoners and their families. They have done the time for the crime they committed, why on earth keep them for a crime that they could do in the future, NOBODY has the right to predict what could happen in the future, the legal system is just condeming these prisoners to fail. The best of clarks makes mistakes and nobody knows what is round the corner. I always thought i would never be visiting anyone in prison, let alone my son, so these judges shouldnt be so quick to put these prisoners away for life without any hope. These prisoners need to see a light at the end of the tunnel, to have something to work for, to get out, to change their life. You wouldnt keep a dog caged for that long – it would have more rights. Lets hope Ken Clarke gets his finger out and does something for these prisoners. I also thought that an ipp was given on third offence, not on first with no previous convictions?

    • Raymond Peytors -
      March 1, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Another tragic case of a political sentencing policy that relies on ‘experts’ predicting ‘risk’. Both terms – ‘experts’ and ‘risk’ in this context are no more than devices to allow politicians to continue to ‘protect the public’. That is proved by, amongst other things, the fact that essential prison reports are written by unqualified, trainee psychologists and probation officers who have lost any sense of objectivity.

      • peggy
        March 1, 2011 at 10:20 pm

        just come back from downing street with rosie cash. We handed in a petition today with rosie cash against the ipp with just over 1000 signatures that we collected in just over a week, couldnt just sit there and do nothing, so the idea was mentioned on emmersons ipp campaign site and we just went from there. im not saying that it will achieve anything but at least we know we didnt just sit there and did nothing. At least my son knew i was fighting all the way for him

        • Raymond Peytors -
          March 2, 2011 at 12:08 am

          I must congratulate you on taking this action. I do not believe it is a wasted effort as there will be others doing similar things as well. As we ahave always said on, the more people who do something the more that will change.

          • peggy
            March 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

            hi, received a reply from downing street yesterday….Cameron has read the letters and seen the petition and has now forwarded it onto ken clarke. I know i cant change the world but it does give a little hope towards a light at the end of the tunnel. Fingers crossed.

  5. kirsty harper
    February 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    IPP sentences do not work, you are being punished for things you may do in the future which is very unfair, you should receive a punishment for the crime you have committed and then be released back into society with relevant programmes to prevent you from committing further crime, IPP is not just a very unfair punishment on the individual but on the family and loved ones, probation officers have a lot of weight on this sentence which is very scary as i have met a couple whom think that all prisoners are the same very discriminating views and have no intention to rehabilitate and individual at all! IPP SHOULD BE SCRAPPED OR CHANGE DRAMATICALLY SO THE PEOPLE ON THIS SENTENCE THAT DESERVE TO BE RELEASED ARE NOT KEPT OVER TARRIFF

  6. rosie cash
    February 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    everyone should start writing to their mp now and get this ipp heard. the more that write the better,write to ken clark as well,we all need to get writing..

    • N Clarke
      April 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

      Who do i write to to help this campaign of getting IPP sentences scrapped or changed drastically? I did not know anything about these sentences untill my boyfriend was arrested november last year for having a drunken fight that went to far he has now been told to expect a 6year ipp! These sentences are so unfair not only for the prisoner but for their families and loved ones. at least with a straight sentence they have light at the end of the tunnel and something in which to work towards instead of facing just a big black with no definate end in sight!

    • laura
      April 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      i intend to write to whom ever i can to get this sentence scrapped apart from ken clark and mp who else is there to contact

  7. sandra
    February 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    ipp sentenses are inhumain,my son is 3years over tariff and over 2 years since he last had a parole hearing,yes he hit someone who stalked him for 14 months,smashed up my sons car,threatened his 4,children followed my son up motorways trying to run him of the road while he was driving his lorry.this would test anyones patience if my son was a woman being stalked i think the outcome would have been rather differant

    • Andromeda -
      February 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      You can find out more about this in our subscribers only newsletter here

  8. Fair and Equal
    January 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    How does the prison system’s bribery and bullying expect ‘innocent’ inmates to admit their crime, if indeed they are not guilty. If they are awaiting appeals how then can they be expected to admit their remorse when indeed they do DENY their guilt because some of them, I know not all, are innocent. The inmates have a very difficult and stressfull time in getting anyone in the prison system to help, believe or even really listen to them as all they want to hear is ‘yes i admit my remorse and AM HAPPY TO HAVE THE REST OF MY LIFE RUINED just because YOU (the prison system mainley the Probationery Officers) want to weild your authority over my future life. The whole system is ABOMINABLE. We are dealing with human lives here and also the knockon effect to the familys involved. Think of what their children have to live with for the rest of Their lives too.

  9. Carol
    January 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    IPP’s are inhumane because once you have an IPP attached to your sentence, although the prisoner has a minimum to serve before they can apply to be released, they have to prove to Probation Officers who bully, pressurise and threaten them with never getting out unles they admit remorse, which they also say that a prisoner is in denial if he does not admit to the bullying and threatening ways. Some inmates also have mental issues like bi-polar and other associated illnesses for which they get no real help. To all intensive purposes when a prisoner has an IPP sentence they can never be released unless the Probationery Services SAY that you are no danger to the public. Who analyses these PO’s to advise if they are fit to be Probation Officers who would have a unbiased and open mind. None that I have been informed about in the prison system. They should be locked up for a period of time and have some of their own treatment levied at them. I wonder if they would ever be deemed as not being a danger to the public, Ther ARE a danger to all the inmates they analyse and who will not bend to their unethical methods of bribery, bullying and threatening. IPP’s are themselves a danger to the inmates as they are the ones who self harm and come to a very sad end due to these ipp’s and the actions of the Probation Officers and the whole IPP system. GET RID OF THEM.

  10. Carol Murphy
    January 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I feel that judges hand out ipp’s like sweets. My son who has been convicted of a sexual offence on a girlfriend and not someone he had attacked off the street etc. He has never been to court before and never convicted of any crime before. He has been given a sentence with minimum term to be served. Because during his sentence reviews he would not admit to his crime or as the Probationery Services put it show remorse he cannot take the courses NECCESSARY to his release. He earned his prisoner enhanced status within 12 weeks, trained as a fire warden, and trained and worked as a dissabled carer during, looking after their needs and helping the disabled in any way possible. He is not a danger to society but has been branded as such but is a very sensitive, caring individual. He has no chance of proving himself and has now been tranferred to a prison on the Isle of Wight because he will not admit to the crime that he was convicted off. He is currently awaiting the result of an appeal process. Do these judges who hand out these ipp’s understand the impact that they have on the families concerned and trauma it causes trying to help their loved ones to try to prove that they are not in any way, shape or form dangerous. Especially if they have never been convicted of any crome of offence before. It is criminal and inhumane to label people this way and for them to live a life of misery even when they are released. Shame on David Blunkett (who is not so pure of heart himself) for passing this unhealful and very expensive process. Tax payers money could well be used in putting these criminals on the correct path and have them involved in some community service for a period when they are realeased on their release dates.

    • Andromeda -
      January 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      This is a sad case but not at all uncommon. One of the biggest problems with the IPP is that judges have no discretion. Under the CJA 2003, if the offence is prescribed by the act (in other words, on the list of offences laid out in the act) the judge must pass an IPP. Any prisoner who does not admit their guilt will get nothing but grief from the Probation Service. will shortly be publishing ‘survival guides’ for IPP prisoners, those under probation supervision and those in custody. They are all produced by writers with personal experience of each situation. We will continue to keep visitors notified of developments in the review of this appalling legislation.

  11. Me
    January 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I don’t mind paying that extra bit of tax to keep some of the Criminals who deserve ipps inside

  12. A
    January 13, 2011 at 2:57 am

    It is not fair judges to pass such horrible sentance when they know that it is like impossible for the prisoners to make the parol board beleve that they are not longer a risk to the public without doing these courses and whoever have someone in prison knows that they have to wait for years to get to one. And am not saying that what they’ve done was ok but they should be given a chance to prove themselves, to live their lives with their family and children… Please if there is anyone who can help them, please do so….

  13. rosie cash
    January 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    i am glad to find some one who can see this ipp do not work it is costing the tax payer millions to keep ppl in prison so i think it shoud be dune away with put taxs payers money to good use let the ppl with this ill thought out sentencs see the light i can undersand sara payna keep ppl like sex offenders locked up for life and mene life but for ppl with short sentences i think ken clark is right to reviwe them give them a chance i hope my comment is valued my brother was in prison and he meet some one with a ipp and he was saying how bad it sounds ppl with long sentences ipp shoud be let out on there tariff and if thay get into trouble when let out put them back for life

  14. jj
    December 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I have just come across your website and I must say I find it rather interesting. I must say though reading on the ipp sentence I have mixed views on weather it should be scraped. I speak from experience as I was passed the ipp sentence and yes I was probaly the first. I would love to speak with the decission makers as I feel my experience of the process is valuable and realistic.

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