The Justice Committee has called on the government to re-sentence individuals still serving an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence. These sentences were abolished in 2012, but over 2,000 IPP prisoners remain in jail.

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What are IPP sentences?

The Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence was introduced in 2005. They were aimed at offenders who posed an ongoing risk to public safety, but who did not merit a life sentence. IPP sentences could be handed out for things like robbery, indecent assault on a child and wounding with intent.

Under IPP sentences, judges could give an offender a minimum tariff which had to be served in custody in full. After this, the prisoner could apply to the Parole Board for release. If the Parole Board accepted the application, the prisoner was released on licence. This means that you serve the rest of a sentence in the community, so long as you stick to certain conditions.

IPP offenders would be subject to ongoing supervision in the community and could be recalled to prison for breaking the conditions of their licence. However, once 10 years had elapsed since their first release, the offender could apply to the Parole Board for a licence termination. If granted, the offender would no longer be supervised and could not be recalled to prison.

IPP offenders still in prison

IPP sentences were abolished in 2012 following criticism that they were being used too widely and inconsistently. However, the government at the time decided not to apply this abolition retrospectively, as it would have resulted in the immediate release of many prisoners without a proper risk assessment.

Consequently, as of June 2022, there are still 2,926 IPP prisoners in custody. Of these, 1,492 have never been released and 1,434 have been recalled to prison. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has an action plan for reducing the size of the IPP prison population. But a report by the Justice Committee has criticised this plan, saying it lacks a clear strategic priority.

What are the criticisms?

The Justice Committee points to various challenges prisoners face in relation to rehabilitation, including access to mental health services and the availability of course places. The report also raises concerns about the transparency surrounding programme evaluations.

Furthermore, the report suggests that the parole process and the probation service pose a significant barrier to progress for IPP offenders. It says more needs to be done to tackle the “recall merry-go-round”, with greater efforts to successfully integrate prison leavers into society.

The Committee recommends that the government re-sentence all IPP-sentenced individuals (other than those who have already had their licence terminated). It also suggests reducing the qualifying licence period from 10 years to five years.

It remains to be seen whether the government will heed this advice. We promise to keep you updated on developments, as and when they happen.

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