A former Supreme Court judge has called on the government to end the ‘terrible scourge’ of indeterminate sentence of ‘imprisonment for public protection’ (IPPs). Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood called IPPs ‘a form of preventive detention, internment entirely alien to our traditional criminal justice approach.”
An IPP will be issued by a judge if there is a significant risk that an offender will cause serious harm to the public by committing further offences. It allows a prisoner to be detained indefinitely even after they have completed the minimum term set by the judge to reflect the seriousness of the offence that they had committed. The IPP has been a contentious issue for successive governments since David Blunkett first introduced them with the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
IPPs were abolished in 2012. No new IPPs can be passed but those sentenced before 2012 may still be in prison if an IPP was issued as part of their sentence. More than 4,000 prisoners are currently under an IPP, some for relatively minor offences.
Lord Brown asked how many of those still serving IPPs have now been imprisoned for ‘more than five times their tariff sentences‘. According to the government, at the end of September there were some 392 such prisoners. Speaking for the Government, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said that the Ministry of Justice had no intention of relaxing the test for release but that the Parole Board was working through the list to see if people were ready to be released.
‘In 2012, that whole system was finally abolished and power was given to the Lord Chancellor to amend the test to ensure that those people previously sentenced could finally secure their release. The previous Lord Chancellor failed in that regard. When will this Lord Chancellor finally decide to bring this terrible scourge to an end?’
Lord Morris, a former Labour law officer, said that any delay in considering cases was ‘reprehensible but the safety of the public must always be paramount’.
Alex is a human rights researcher and barrister. He has worked around the world, providing legal research to human rights NGOs and parliamentarians.