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What’s an IPP sentence

The general public perception is that sentencing in this country is soft. It is not always clear how that viewpoint is to be reconciled with the fact that the prison population has reached record levels. Part of the picture in the increasing prison population was the introduction in April 2005 of imprisonment for public protection [IPP] sentences. In the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill [LASPO], the government has proposed replacing the IPP sentence with an automatic life sentences for certain offenders, but for the time being the IPP remains.

So what is an IPP sentence? And what is the difference between an IPP and a life sentence? And what is an extended sentence? And who might be in line for those types of sentences?

Extended sentence
An extended sentence is not so very different from an ordinary ‘determinate’ sentence, where the offender serves half of the sentence in custody and half on licence unless he is recalled to prison. To be in line for an extended sentence an offender must be found to represent a significant risk of causing serious harm the public and have committed a ‘specified offence’ as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. This will usually mean a relatively serious sexual or violent offence: perhaps a sexual assault or a bad case of an assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Offenders serving an extended sentence will be eligible for release after serving one-half of the sentence but the judge will determine how long extra the offender will remain on licence beyond the usual sentence. The offender can be recalled to prison at any time during the ordinary or extended licence period. This means that if the probation service believes that the offender has breached the terms of his or her licence (e.g. to live at a certain place, or not to contact a certain person) he or she can be returned to prison. Licencees do not have to have committed any further crime to be recalled and once recalled are at the mercy of the Parole Board in trying to secure re-release.

IPP sentence
An IPP sentence is more resembling of a life sentence, which most people are broadly familiar with. In murder cases a life sentence is mandatory but life sentences can also be passed for other offences if they are serious enough and if the offender represents a continuing danger to the public as defined by various sentencing authorities. A person can be sentenced to IPP as a lesser alternative if the judge considers that he or she represents a significant risk of serious harm and has committed what is known as a ‘serious specified offence’ as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The type of offences that are categorised as serious specified offences are usually very serious offences of a violent or sexual nature: for example causing grievous bodily harm with intent, or rape.

The difference between a life sentence and an IPP sentence is that in IPP cases the tariff tends to be shorter because life sentences are reserved for the very worst crimes, which generally might be expected to attract longer tariffs. Beyond that the only difference between the two sentences is that a person sentenced to IPP can apply to have his licence cancelled ten years after his release whereas a lifer cannot. In both cases the offender is otherwise subject to licence for life after his or her release.

Those sentenced to IPP or life will be given a ‘tariff’ by the judge. This means the minimum time he or she must serve before being considered for release by the Parole Board. The judge decides the tariff by calculating what sentence he would otherwise have given the offender and halving it. To qualify for an IPP sentence the judge must have in mind a ‘starting point’ of four years (i.e., a tariff of two years or more.) In the case of lifers there is no minimum tariff although it would be extremely rare if not unheard of for a tariff of as short as two years to be considered in a lifer case. The figure is halved to promote consistency with the fact that ordinary determinate sentence prisoners will serve one-half of the sentence in custody. This halving of the otherwise appropriate term often gives rise to scaremongering headlines such as ‘out in only two years’ when the reality is quite different.

The reality is that the vast majority of IPP prisoners and lifers will still be in prison long after the tariff period has expired either because they are waiting to complete behavioural programmes, or because they have misbehaved in prison, or because they are simply unable to persuade the Parole Board that they have changed. Even if offenders are able to secure their release, they can be returned to prison at a moment’s notice if they reoffend or breach the conditions of their licence. And, unlike in the case of an ordinary determinate or extended sentence prisoner, those serving IPP or life will usually have this prospect hanging over them indefinitely. A single ‘mistake’ can result in the offender serving many years more than the tariff imposed on them and the Parole Board is not obliged to have any regard to the length of the tariff at that stage. Unless the Parole Board is satisfied that the risk that the offender poses to ‘life and limb’ is less than minimal, then the IPP or life-sentenced prisoner is liable to be detained without limitation of time: hardly the mark of the ‘soft’ system in which we are said to operate.

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7 Responses to What’s an IPP sentence

  1. Katherinegleeson Reply

    April 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

    The petition of IPP Prisoners campaign, their members and supporters hereby declare that we are petitioning the house following the amendments introduced in the current Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill (LASPO)

    To The House of Commons Petition http://​www.ippprisonerscampaign.com/​petition.htm The petition of IPP Prisoners campaign, their members and supporters hereby declare that we are petitioning the house following the amendments introduced in the current Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill (LASPO) which lead to the abolition of the problematic and ill thought out Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). In 2007 the green paper ‘Prisons with a purpose’ mentioned that ‘the prison service should try and deal with prisoners before the end of their minimum tariff’ and the fact that many Ipp prisoners can neither get onto the requisite course in their current prison nor be moved to another prison where a particular course, deemed necessary for the prisoner to show that they are no longer a danger to the public, is available’. If they are able to obtain a place on a course they have often had to first be placed on an extensive waiting list. Currently these courses are a requirement for them to demonstrate that they have lowered their risk (1). They also continually face many other problems which include parole board delays and lack of continuity in offender management. The Justice Secretary showed that on 8th October 2007 the amount of post tariff IPP prisoners was approximately 400 and that this was 0.5% of the current prison population (1).Recent figures from The Ministry of Justice however show that as of 31st December 2011 there were 6162 IPP prisoners of which 3489 had passed their tariff thus those over tariff made up 4.049% of the then current prison population, this opposed to the previous 0.5% is an increase of over 800%. These figures demonstrate that although the plight IPP prisoners faced was evident no firm measures had been implemented and without these issues addressed imminently the problem will just continue to escalate. Due to this ongoing plight IPP Prisoners face, we the petitioners request that the House of Commons release on license all those currently serving an IPP sentence on or at tariff expiry, unless it can be definitively proven that the prisoner is considered a high risk to the public. For those that are considered such a said risk then plans be put in place and implemented allowing them the opportunity to lower their risk in a satisfactory manner. By signing this petition the petitioners are voluntarily offering their full support to the requests made within this petition. Please Return Completed Petitions to Amanda Goodall, IPP Prisoners Campaign, 24 Chevallier Street, Ipswich, IP1 2PD Due to this ongoing plight IPP Prisoners face, we the petitioners request that the House of Commons release on license all those currently serving an IPP sentence on or at tariff expiry, unless it can be definitively proven that the prisoner is considered a high risk to the public. For those that are considered such a said risk then plans be put in place and implemented allowing them the opportunity to lower their risk in a satisfactory manner. By signing this petition the petitioners are voluntarily offering their full support to the requests made within this petition. Petition http://​www.ippprisonerscampaign.com/​petition.htm

  2. Katherinegleeson Reply

    April 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

    The High Court has rightly held that it is illegal to detain people until they can prove that they are safe but yet deny them the means to do so. The only wonder is that it took a court judgment to demonstrate to ministers the fault in their Alice in Wonderland logic. It is a life sentence in all but name. The only real difference is that it can be given for far less serious offences. The Prison Reform Trust has come across people given tariffs for their sentence of just 18 weeks. The tariff, as in the life sentence, is the minimum time that must be served. It represents the retribution or punishment for the offence. But even after the tariff, the person remains in prison until they have done the courses necessary to demonstrate they are ready for release. But because of grotesque prison over-crowding and the low priority given to ‘education’ (including the courses required to qualify for release from an IPP) by the prison authorities, it is often simply impossible for an IPP prisoner to undergo the course required. Unless he has done the course, the parole board won’t consider him for release, even though he has served his tariff. So he has undergone the punishment imposed by the judge, but can’t be released because he can’t do the course that alone will satisfy the parole board that he is unlikely to commit a further offence. What is IPP? – IPP stands for Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection – What this actually means is if you were to go to court and receive a 2 year sentence, 3 years, 4 years, etc….. with IPP you could be imprisoned for up to 99 years. At the moment it is still up to the prisoner to prove that they are safe for release which is what makes it impossible as you cannot prove you are safe to release as you are in prison. It is then up to a parole board to decide if they feel you are ready to be released back in to society, so prisoners and their families do not know IF or WHEN they will EVER be released. You may be thinking right now that “well, if they have committed murder or something along those lines then they deserve it” – But they have NOT committed murder, if you were sentenced for murder you would receive a determinate sentence of approx 25 years or more – but you would know when you were due to be released and have something to work towards, in retrospect these 3,200 prisoners left in limbo (Guantanimo Bay) would have actually been released by now had they committed a manslaughter or murder. IPP Prisoners are literally being left in limbo. A lot of IPP prisoners do not have any family support and feel that there is no hope left for them and it is because of this that approx every 2 weeks a suicide is reported in prison. Where has it all gone wrong? There are currently around 3,200 prisoners that are still incarcerated beyond their tariff – Prisoners that received 2 years that were supposed to be released 9 years ago are actually still serving that sentence because there is no effective system in place that works. Ken Clarke last year abolished IPP and stated that it is inhumane – so now we need to move forward and deal with the IPPs that were already serving before it was abolished last year. This is why the UK prisons are overcrowded and it’s costing Tax-payers more and more every year, maybe this is one of the many causes as to why the United Kingdom has hit a debt of £3,000,000,000,000 – It actually costs £41,000 per year per prisoner in the UK – Now, multiply that by 3,200 – the result of keeping just these 3,200 prisoners in past their tariff is costing us all £131,200,000 every year, that’s without the cost of the rest. Now, the old saying goes – If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime – But, how can a prisoner serve their time if they do not know how much time they have to do?Ipp Prisoners Familys Campaign. For thousands of IPP prisoners who are long past the tariff laid down by the courts when they were sentenced, this comes as worrying news indeed. To their families, it is nothing short of devastation. The families and children of those incarcerated in an unjust and unfair penal system suffer as their loved ones remain in custody when they should have been given the chance of release long ago.Our 1 aim is to get a fixed determinate sentence for IPP prisoners. Lobbying for change The Court of Appeal has ruled that it’s unlawful for someone given an “indeterminate sentence for public protection” (IPP) to be kept in prison beyond his ‘tariff’ (the period set by the sentencing judge as the minimum required for punishment, release thereafter being permitted on condition that the offender satisfies the parole board that he won’t reoffend) if he hasn’t been able to take one of the prison courses whose completion is a condition of release. It seems that a thousand or more prisoners serving IPPs are in this Kafkaesque, nightmare logical trap. It is a life sentence in all but name. The only real difference is that it can be given for far less serious offences. But even after the tariff, the person remains in prison until they have done the courses necessary to demonstrate they are ready for release. He would only be released if he “admitted guilt” Mr. Blunt commented that the previous Government had to reform the IPP arrangements in 2008, and that the current Government had inherited ‘a very serious problem’ with IPP prisoners. He said, ‘we have 6,000 IPP prisoners, well over 2,500 of whom have exceeded their tariff point. Many cannot get on courses because our prisons are wholly overcrowded and (they are) unable to address offending behaviour. For example if you had a prison term of 3years you may have five offending courses to finish as part of your sentence plan before you can be released. 18 month waiting list to do 1 course and that’s if they have the course at all at that prison .So instead of doing 3 years it may be 5 years or more until you have finished the courses. It seems you have to be smart to badger the prison to get on these courses.. Target: LASPO, The House ofLords, The Government, Ken Clarke, The Queen Sponsored by: Lorna Elliott -Solicitor, IPP Prisoners Familys Campaign & Emmersons Solicitors IPP is inhumane, against humanrights and breaches Human Rights Act 1998 Article 3 Prohibition of Torture – Noone shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment orpunishmentIPP stands for Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection – What thisactually means is if you were to go to court and receive a 2 year sentence, 3years, 4 years, etc….. with IPP you could be imprisoned for up to 99 years.Atthe moment it is still up to the prisoner to prove that they are safe forrelease which is what makes it impossible as you cannot prove you are safe torelease as you are in prison.It is then up to a parole board to decide if theyfeel you are ready to be released back in to society, so prisoners and theirfamilies do not know IF or WHEN they will EVER be released, this in itself ismental TORTURE, DEGRADING & INHUMANE.There are currently over 3,200prisoners that are over their tariff which is costing £41,000 each year foreach prisoner to remain in prison. For 3,200 prisoners this amounts to£131,200,000 each year and in total there are 88,000 prisoners in prison inthe UK.The main point of our campaign is not to argue whether or not theprisoners deserved to go to prison – The fact of the matter is that even if itmeans that prisoners are given longer sentences – be it 2 years, 3 years, 5years, 10 years, or even 25 years – then every human on this planet deserves toknow when they will be home with their children and/or families again, theydeserve to know what time they have to serve, change the existing IPP sentencesover to determinate sentences. less IPP is inhumane, against humanrights and breaches Human Rights Act 1998 Article 3 Prohibition of Torture – Noone shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment orpunishmentIPP stands for Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection – What thisactually means is if you were to go to court and receive a 2 year sentence, 3years, 4 years, etc….. with IPP you could be imprisoned for up to 99 years.At the moment it is still up to the prisoner to prove that they are safe forrelease which is what makes it impossible as you cannot prove you are safe torelease as you are in prison. It is then up to a parole board to decide if theyfeel you are ready to be released back in to society, so prisoners and theirfamilies do not know IF or WHEN they will EVER be released, this in itself ismental TORTURE, DEGRADING & INHUMANE. There are currently over 3,200prisoners that are over their tariff which is costing £41,000 each year foreach prisoner to remain in prison. to remain in prison. For 3,200 prisonersthis amounts to £131,200,000 each year and in total there are 88,000 prisonersin prison in the UK. The main point of our campaign is not to argue whether ornot the prisoners deserved to go to prison – The fact of the matter is thateven if it means that prisoners are given longer sentences – be it 2 years, 3years, 5 years, 10 years, or even 25 years – then every human on this planetdeserves to know when they will be home with their children and/or familiesagain, they deserve to know what time they have to serve, change the existingIPP sentences over to determinate sentences. Detaining people on the basis of what they may possibly do in the future is wholly unjust. punishing people for what they may possibly do in future is a repellent act IPP’s can only be released if they can show that they have addressed their offending behaviour. This is done by as mentioned by completing offending behaviour courses and then parading these achievements before the Parole Board. There is Insufficient places on these courses for them to complete them before the end of their tariff. If your tariff is 18 months the waiting list for these course is 2 years, there is no chance for you to demonstrate before the Perol board that you are fit for release. over their tariff and the Ministry accepts that this is not necessarily the fault of the prisoners. So bizarre and wicked is this situation, that the HighCourt ruled last year that, in effect, the sentence has become so arbitrary as to become unlawful. The higher courts plugged this political problem on the well known legaldoctrine of “tough shit”. And so these men remain in prison. Thecourts have ruled that this is a terrible situation but, alas, there is no one in particular to blame. And so they have now blocked IPP’s from launching legalchallenges to demand their right to a parole hearing. It’s no one’s fault, so we are back to QUOTE tough sh.. government, quick to throw people in prison, neglected to provide the resourcesfor these prisoners to undertake their offending behaviour courses, and failedto fund the Parole Board for this doubling of their workload. This situationreflects a profound shift in sentencing philosophy that was overlooked bylegislatures and society. Rather a fixed time for the crime committed, many arenow detained not only for the crime, but on the basis of what they may do infuture If prisoner got 2 years they could do 10 years or more …because there not allowed on the Courses because to a learning differance dyslexia or other…..

  3. Kelly Sandhill Reply

    February 17, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    but IPP sentances have gone and people are still in prison on the IPP sentance why isnt it changed inside prison yet they are slow I know a person who is 4 years over tarrif and is still on IPP hurry up and change for all sick of hearing about this sentance now how long will they have to just hang with no dates.

    • mike Reply

      March 7, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      hi there. My son has gone nearly 6 years over the tarrif. I totally agree with you. What can we do ???

    • mike Reply

      March 7, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      my son too 6 years over his tarrif. What can one do ?????

  4. harold wells Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    my son got 4yrs for conspisary to rob he is still in prison 8yrs on and i cant find out why he is serving so long a sentence could someone please help me

  5. KIM Reply

    April 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Sign this petition as we believe in IPP being retrospective!!!

    Many prisoners are treated inhumanly, being held in custody for years far after their tariff has expired. I started this petition to change the structure of IPP. It will give prisoners a final date for their release. It is important to give them, as well as family and friends a date to look forward to.

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/chris-grayling-make-ipp-retrospective

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