The Truth About IPP Sentences

IPP sentences no closer to reform despite change in law

Still no reform to IPP sentences

Still no reform of IPP sentences despite change in law

The government has told TheOpinionSite.org that a timetable for the repeal of the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) has still not been set, despite the fact that the Bill scrapping the much criticised measure has been passed by both Houses of Parliament; nor have measures yet been put in place to speed up the release of the 4,000 IPP prisoners who  have already completed the ‘relevant’ – or “punishment” – part of their sentence.

The delay in setting the reform timetable reflects the huge opposition faced by David Cameron from his own right-wing back bench MPs, many of whom are strongly opposed to any moves that could be seen as a softening of UK penal policy.

The right wing of the Conservative party – including the beleaguered Home Secretary, Theresa May – are terrified that they will suffer criticism from the tabloid media, child protection groups and women’s organisations should prisoners that have often been wrongly labelled as “dangerous” be returned to the community.

The government’s problem is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the public do not understand or even know about IPP sentences and are therefore easy prey for those groups who proclaim the doctrine that the system is always right and that IPP prisoners should never be released; a view regrettably supported by very many police officers, probation staff and prison officials.

When asked by TheOpinionSite.org  when the reforms would be introduced, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

“We intend to replace the widely criticised IPP system, which the public doesn’t have confidence in, with a new regime of tough, determinate sentences. The new regime will restore clarity, coherence and common sense to sentencing.”

When we asked what was being done to assist the progression of those existing IPP prisoners by the introduction of a new, mush fairer “release test”, the spokesman said:

“We have work underway to improve the progress of existing prisoners who are serving IPP sentences by making improvements to assessment, provision of rehabilitative work and parole review processes. We will continue to monitor the situation and look to make ongoing improvements.”

It is fairly obvious from the MOJ statement above that anyone expecting change to come quickly is going to be extremely disappointed. The fact that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is now on its way to Royal Assent and becoming Law is no indication whatsoever that IPP sentences will disappear any time soon or that those already serving them will be released.

The fact that a Bill becomes Law does not oblige the government to immediately enact it. Indeed, there are many Acts of Parliament that have been passed over the years, sections of which have still not been brought into force. A prime example is the provisions in the Prisoners Earnings Act 1996 (Revised 2011) that could allow prisoners to earn a proper wage for the work they do. They could then save for their release, support victims groups and relieve the burden on the taxpayer when released.

Whilst the government is keen to publicise the deductions from a prisoner’s weekly ‘wage’ in order to support victims’ organisations – that is, if the prisoner earns at least £20 pound a week (which most do not) – ministers are frightened of enacting the part of the Act that would enable prisoners to earn a ‘real’ wage for fear of a public backlash due to the current, extremely high rate of UK unemployment.

The reform of IPP sentences is being delayed for fear of similar public criticism, ministers being aware that any move to support prisoners will be rejected by a public that is woefully ignorant of how the criminal justice system works in the UK and still wrongly believes that prisons are places of luxury and some kind of “holiday camp”; in our view, a particularly ignorant view to take unless one has had years of experience of working in a prison, assessing prison standards or having been a long-term prisoner.

For IPP prisoners especially and their families, not knowing when – or even if – the prisoner will be released is not, in the view of TheOpinionSite.org at least, an experience that assists either the promotion of justice or fairness. Nor is it the behaviour expected from what is supposedly a “civilised” society.

There are also practical issues regarding the release of IPP prisoners that plague the government on a daily basis. Not the least the problems of insufficient hostel places, lack of move-on accommodation and an inbuilt tendency of police and probation staff to find an excuse to return the newly released IPP prisoner to jail as quickly as possible, thus making the lives of officials much easier than they would otherwise be. (If any of those officials would like to express a contrary view, they are welcomed to do so by commenting below or by expressing their view in TheOpinionSite.org Forum)

There are approximately 100 “approved premises” – probation hostels to the rest of us – in England and Wales, most of which will not take IPP prisoners who have often been convicted of sexual or violent offences. That is a total of approximately 2,400 beds. Most of those places are filled by long term, non-IPP prisoners convicted of sexual or violent offences.

Even HM Prison Service is making life difficult by refusing permission for IPP prisoners to be transferred to minimum security D Category prisons, something which is almost essential if the prisoner is ever to be released back into the community. Such establishments are afraid of the adverse publicity that would result from an IPP prisoner being allowed to abscond.

Alleged “paedophiles” – for the sake of clarity, that means anyone of any age convicted of any sexual offence involving, affecting or even influencing any person under 16 (or in some cases 18) years of age – will find release almost impossible if they have been given an IPP by a judge, fairly or otherwise.

One must remember that judges have very little or even no discretion when handing down an IPP sentence, the criteria for such a sentence having been laid down by Blair and David Blunkett in such a way as to remove judicial discretion and then passed by Blair’s Parliament for purely political reasons and in order to appease the tabloids and their individual  campaigners, the numerous child and women’s protection charities and similar lobby groups.

The question then is: ‘When will the IPP reforms actually happen?’

The answer, at least in the view of TheOpinionSite.org is: “Not any time soon.”

Even if the government had the will to bring in the reforms speedily (which it doesn’t), they would at present be almost impossible to implement. The reasons are numerous but here are just a few that stand out above the rest:

  • There are insufficient places available on the programmes and courses that an IPP prisoner must successfully complete before standing any real chance of release
  • There are insufficient places at D Category establishments to allow an IPP prisoner to progress towards release, principally because of fear of public criticism should such a prisoner abscond
  • There are insufficient places in “approved premises” (probation hostels) for the number of released IPP prisoners who would require them
  • It would be political suicide for the government to release large numbers of prisoners who have often wrongly been designated as “dangerous”
  • Public ignorance of reoffending rates has been manipulated by successive governments, police and probation staff, resulting in a misinformed public belief that all sex offenders reoffend – despite the fact that sex offenders actually have one of the very lowest rates of reoffending
  • The government is afraid of a revolt from the tabloids, its own right wing MPs, the child protection and women’s protection lobby and those who wield power in the probation service and the police
  • The current system keeps thousands of people employed

It must also be remembered that, even if an IPP prisoner is eventually released, he will still be subject to a minimum 10 year licence period, during which time he can be returned to prison by the probation service for any reason, even if he does not commit any further offences.

Anyone knowledgeable about the criminal justice system in Britain will tell you that the chances of a prisoner getting through a 10 year licence without being returned to prison at least once are virtually nil. TheOpinionSite.org believes therefore that it is not only the release criteria for IPP prisoners that need revision but also the licence provisions as well; something that is very unlikely to happen under any government of whatever party.

With the already high level of general public dissatisfaction, opposition from those with vested interests and the fact that we have an unpopular  government terrified of criticism, it is unlikely that any real reform of the IPP regime will happen any time soon.

There is insufficient money, insufficient will for change in the government and in those who rely on the system for their living, too much political opposition and too little resistance to the numerous charities and individual “experts” that rely on public fear for their very existence. With all that in place, TheOpinionSite.org believes that anyone expecting real changes to the IPP system any time soon should not hold their breath.  

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25 Responses to IPP sentences no closer to reform despite change in law

  1. Marie
    March 2, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    My son was given a IPP tariff of 5 years for burglary in 2005, he is still in prison!!!! he has been shipped from pillar to post, has had kettles of boiling water over him, where he had to be admitted to hospital, been in seg for his own safety, has done every course imaginable , the govenor of Exetor prison even made him change his CAT so he might get moved nearer to me for visits, this is unbelievable! his probation officer changes every 6 months, they are no help what so ever,I as a mother do not know which way to turn to help him get released.
    I don’t understand how people that do serious crimes IE murder,molest etc get released…

  2. lesley vann
    September 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I AM A MOTHER OF THREE SONS, ONE OF WHICH IS DOING A 5 YEAR IPP. HE IS NOW ON HIS FOURTH YEAR. WHEN HE WAS SENTENCED IT WAS NEVER BROUGHT UP IN COURT HOW HE WAS GANGED UPON FOR 15 PLUS YEARS AND BATTERED, MOBILE PHONES TAKEN OFF OF HIM WHICH I ALWAYS HAD TO REPLACE BECAUSE HE SUFFERS 4 TYPES OF. EPILEPSY AND I WORRIED ABOUT HIM ALL THE TIME. HE FINALLY FLIPPED AFTER YEARS OF ABUSE AND HE WOULD NEVER LET ME CALL THE POLICE BUT THEN I HAVE TO ASK MYSELF WOULD THEY HAVE BEEN BOTHERED TO COME TO HIS AID AND I DOUBT THAT CONSIDERING IN COURT A CERTAIN JUDGE RAGGERT WAS NOT INTERESTED IN HIS DEFENCE HE WAS IN A RUSH TO GO FOR HIS LUNCH SO MY SON NEVER STOOD A CHANCE. THE VERY GOOD NEVER HAD ANY TROUBLE ALWAYS DESCENT PUBLIC HOUSE THAT STILL STANDS AND STILL HOUSES COKE DEALERS KNOWINGLY TO THE POLICE ARE RESONSEABLE FOR THIS. MY SON WOULD NEVER HURT A SOUL YES! HE WAS A NUISANCE BUT NEVER A VIOLENT ONE AS WAS SAID IN COURT. YES EVEN THOUGH IT TOOK HIM THREE DAYS TO REALISE WHAT HE WAS IN A POLICE CELL FOR HE CAN`T BELIEVE HIMSELF THAT HE REACTED LIKE HE DID. PEOPLE FROM THE COMMUNITY HE WAS BOUGHT UP IN ATTACKING LIKE THEY DID AND STILL GO TO THE SAME PUB CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS AND STILL GETTING AWY WITH WHAT THEY DO. MY SON WOULD GET HIS HEAD SLAPPED, FLICKED AROUND THE EARS, STRING TIED ROUND THE LEGS OF HIS CHAIR AND PULLED FROM UNDER HIM AS HE WENT AND SAT BACK DOWN BANGING HIS HEAD AND THEM IDIOTS LAUGHING ABOUT IT. MAKING OUT THEY WERE HIS FRIEND ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE PUB WHILE OTHERS ATTACKED HIM BEHIND. YES!! HE TOOK YEARS OF THIS ABUSE I COULD CRY AND HAVE ON MANY OCCASIONS WHEN HE USED TO WALK IN HOME BLEEDING AND BRUISED THROUGH THESE HORRIBLE, SPITEFUL, NASTY PEOPLE YET SOMEHOW IT IS MY SON THAT IS THE BAD ONE AND I WONDER IF I WILL BE ALIVE WHEN HE COMES OUT IF HE DOES . HE HAS ALREADY LOST HIS DAD WHILE IN H.M.P. RELYING ON THESE NO GOOD DOERS WHO ARE ONLY CORNCERNED ABOUT THEIR LIVES & LIVING AND KEEPING THEMSELVES IN A JOB AND WHO LOVE HAVING AUTHORITY OVER HIM. PLUS AN AR****** OF A GOVERMENT THAT COULD NEVER RUN A MONKEYS TEA PARTY NEVER MIND THIS COUNTRY WHICH THE WORLD MUST BE LAUGHING AT. BETTER STOP THERE OR ELSE I NEVER WILL. BUT I AM GOING TO BUT IN FOR THE GOVERMENT TO PAY FOR MY VISITS TO SEE MY SON FUEL,ECT.

  3. rob
    August 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Reading some of the previous posts has given me a little hope in a system that is hopeless! To know that I’m not alone in the pursuit to expose this cruel and inhumane sentencing has brought me a small si of relief.
    My brother is an IPP prisoner currently serving a 5 year sentence of his first offence(manslaughter)at HMP Wymott. Now 4 years in (18months after tariff), the progress he’s made has been outstanding. He’s passed some of the courses required, also becoming the ART class assistant tutor. He’s studied Buddhism and become an active ‘listener’ to other inmates on his wing. Time and time again he’s proven himself to be no danger to anyone, even after being attacked and provoked he’s kept a level head. He was told he had been suitable to move on to an open prison(cat D) which gave him a great sense of hope. But once again the IPP found its corrupt way to pull any ideas of freedom far from his conscience. The probation and parole board have simply FAILED to see any of his progress and still see him as a ‘high risk’ offender. Now the f*ckers are hoping to move him 300 miles away from his family into a category A/B high security prison. When there he’s to serve a minimum of 2 years. It sickens me that those who only know him from a piece of paper, have such power over his life! Something must be done to stop this form of mental abuse. How much more must some of these men suffer? Give them a chance.

  4. John c
    July 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    In regards to Claire May 16th, the Editor is wrong actually. IPP sentences are considered only if the person convicted of a violent crime had previously committed one of an extensive list of crimes, that includes firearms offences and malicious wounding among them. Judges do have much discretion however, tend to follow precedent as is the way with the British Judicial System until someone either finds a loophole or mounts a successful challenge. “The condition in this subsection is that, at the time the offence was committed, the offender had been convicted of an offence specified in Schedule 15A” CJA 2003.

    • John c
      July 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      I meant serious crime, not violent

      • lesley vann
        September 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm

        My Son has never committed a serious crime they were mainly public orders, he has never hurt anyone his words not mine “I would rather get hurt myself than hurt anybody “. as my Sons were growing up i always told them “It takes a big man to walk away from a fight”, hence the fact that is what he always wanted to do. Obviously there have been times when he has had to try to defend himself. In court that Judge said he was a violent man he has never been done for violence and he regrets badly what he did on the night that got him an IPP sentence. As my Son was battered and kicked around the pub carpark the Leicester police stood there and watched. My youngest Son tried to help his brother but he was threatened with CS gas and whacked around the back of his legs with a battan. But that is legal because the law are allowed to batter people as it shows how big they are.Really they are NO better than those Sad, Nasty spiteful pieces of crap that treated my Son as they did. According to the Judges in our Courts the Police never lie but trust me i know how they lie & they have the audacity to do it on The Holy Bible which to me beggers belief. As i said before my Sons have not been Angels but they have certainly took an awful lot of blame for others especially my Son who is doing the IPP he would always cover for who he thought was a friend “He now knows that they were never freinds” as he has to rely on me and his two brothers to visit him. I do not agree with what he did that night but i sure know he was pushed and pushed and pushed.

    • Raymond Peytors - theopinionsite.org
      July 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      This is total rubbish. Try explaining what you say to the very many people serving an IPP who have no previous convictions, particular where the alleged offence is of a sexual nature. If the offence is prescibed under the CJA 2003, an IPP can be handed down. – Editor

    • Bob
      July 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      My son got an IPP and he has no previous convictions. John c is completely wrong.

  5. Jackie
    May 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    If the European Court of Human rights say this Government can not deport a Terrorist, then they will not deport them, yet when the European Court of Human Rights tell them to scrap this barbaric sentence, they ignore them, for fear of public reaction, well they don’t fear public reaction when they don’t deport people that are a real danger to the whole of this country. It all boils down to keeping people in work, and it is costing this country millions if not billions of pounds by keeping these Human Beings locked up. In this time of economy disaster, why are they dragging their heels.

  6. Ms Justice
    May 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    May I just add to the editors defence that the comment posted below that an IPP sentence is only given to the most serious offenders is simply not true. Perhaps thats the way it should have been but I have factual knowledge that it has been recomended for first time offenders, it has been dished out to teenagers who after their sentence has finished they are still in prison for many years to come, and above all and quite remarkably really it has been given to offenders who have not commited a violent offence! Let us not forget the extended licence sentences given out as well. [The offender finishes his sentence and is still subject to be recalled at the discrcretion of the police or the probation staff] Unless you want to live somewhere like Saoudi Arabia then please dont try to justify keeping any person locked away or under the constant threat of being returned to prison for trivial reasons when they have already served their punishment.

  7. Claire
    May 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Yes IPP sentences are full of faults-all of which have been outlined above. However these sentences are most often given for serial recidivist criminals, committing offences such as rape and murder. For the families of these victims, it is a LIFE sentence. Rape victims have an 8x higher suicide rate than those not sexually assaulted and rape survivors have to live with the on-going aftermath for the rest of their lives. The collateral damage to their families is immense and is also costly to the government. Victims need to be factored into the argument-IPPs are for PUBLIC protection, and that could mean you.
    Effective early intervention with youth offenders needs to be part of the CJS.

    • Raymond Peytors - theopinionsite.org
      May 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Editors Note: You are incorrect. Firstly, the only sentence permitted for murder is Life Imprisonment. Secondly, Most IPP prisoners are first time offenders. Thirdly, IPP sentences are given for any offence prescribed in the CJA 2003 and as such, the judge has little or no discretion available. Whether the person is truly dangerous or not is not considered if the offence is listed in the Act. – Editor

      • Claire
        May 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm

        Even Life imprisonment has a minimum tariff. Whether someone is truly dangerous is a retrospective event. I have acknowledged the failings of IPP sentencing, and have merely pointed out that its not only the offenders families who are affected by people who commit serious crimes. The CJA 2003 was clearly ill thought through, but presenting a one sided argument is hardly going to further debate to anyone’s satisfaction.

        • Raymond Peytors - theopinionsite.org
          May 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm

          I would hope that even you would agree that “one sided” is a matter of personal perception. – Editor

  8. Upset Man
    May 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Please all, still have hope, we do not legislation to release IPP sentences and the system will never dare let it out if there is an approach to slowly release IPPs. The quieter things, the less chance can the anti ipp brigade to shout or support the legislation, such as Straw and his mob. Remember, it is costing too much and compliance turned into defiance will make the prisons very unsafe places.

  9. nicola
    May 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    My partner is currently serving an ipp sentence his tariff was twenty months ipp he has been in for five years and is still in his alocation prison of which he is stigmatised treated differently he has been given no hance of proving he is reformed and with no hope of when or if he will ever be released its amaing to me he is still here the law has a responsibility for these people lives and they are just ignoring the problem and that’s disgraceful imagine never knowing if you will EVER be released its torture not only to him but to his family too

    • Martina H
      May 5, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Writetothem.com is the web site to write and protest to your M.P.

  10. Dorothy Rose
    May 3, 2012 at 6:38 am

    I agree whole heartedly with Alana and Jenny above. I dont know what to do next. I have written letters, signed petitions any ideas anyone how we can get this utterly unjust law repealed or at least make the public aware of what is happening in our supposed civilised society

    • Raymond Peytors - theopinionsite.org
      May 3, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Editor’s note: Please feel free to share your view in the forum which is free to join. Go to http://theopinionsite.org/forum

  11. lisa
    April 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Its barbaric this sentence, my husband has been messed around, some of the officers use ipp to play games with them. It is inhumane this sentence, and really affects the family too.
    The probation service use it too, my husbands probation officer told me she will make him do 5years min his tariff was 30 months.
    People are taking their lives through this sentence. Anyone over tariff should be released.

    • Raymond Peytors - theopinionsite.org
      April 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Editors note: If his probation officer said that, you may want to consider taking action against her. Any action you may take will not add to the sentence. – Editor

    • mandy
      May 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      well what can any one say or do about this sentence,i have been on march even dune campaigne but no luck i dont know what to do with my self i just wish some thing would happen for the poor prisoners and there familey..

  12. Shelley
    April 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

    The frustration of this barbaric sentence is unbelievable, IPP prisoners are giving up hope of ever getting release,of ever being home with their familys.The prison stucture is not set up for these prisoners,each prison having their own way of dealing with them,in some they are classed as lifers,in others IPP’s.Every week we are having death in custody among serving IPP’s and something must be done before all hope fails. Until you know someone serving an IPP sentence,you would not believe the unfairness of this situation. PLEASE just give them a release date,afteral there is still the 10 year minimum/life license to contend with.

  13. alana
    April 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    IT SIMPLY BEGS BELIEF THAT THIS COUNTRY HAS SO MUCH CRITICISM OVER THE WAY PEOPLE ARE TREATED IN CHINA AND OTHER COUNTRIES,
    THERE IS CLEARLY ONLY ONE JUSTIFIABLE COMMENT FOR THE U.K.

    PUT YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER FIRST BEFORE YOU DO WHAT YOU DO BEST,
    ” CRITICISING OTHERS!”

  14. Jenny
    April 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I am not surprised by this but the government have kept it all very quiet and buried in secrecy. Thank God for this site or we would never know what was really going on.

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