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The issue of prisoners being kept in prison for longer than their sentence due to public protection issues has been brought into focus after the Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, raised concerns over the matter.




IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) was introduced by David Blunkett in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and designed for offenders deemed to pose a serious threat to the public.

Prisoners with no release date


First used in April 2005, the IPP sentence was abolished in 2012, but there are many individuals – some 3,300 - still detained in UK prisons on an IPP sentence with no scheduled release date.

An area of particular concern for Mr Hardwick – a former Chief Inspector of Prisons – is the levels of self-harm among IPP inmates, many of whom are serving terms, often of several years over the minimum tariffs set for them. Some relatives say their family members are suicidal.



 However, about 800 such sentences were handed out every year, totalling more than 6,500 offenders on IPPS sentences, before they were abolished.

Parole Board determines release date


While a life sentence for murder is mandatory, under IPP sentences an individual who is believed to be an ongoing danger to the public would serve a fixed term and then go before a Parole Board to determine a release date. That could see them released, or kept in prison for longer than their initial sentence.

Crimes that attracted IPP sentences were those of violence or sexual offences.

An IPP sentence would have a shorter minimum ‘tariff’ than life sentences but the individual would still have the prospect of jail hanging over them when they are released if, for example, the probation service believed they had breached the terms of their licence. That would see them returned to prison.
 

Unacceptable levels of harm


 Mr Hardwick wants the government to “get a grip” on the IPP issue, describing the levels of suicide, assault, and self-harm as “unacceptably high.”

He has urged Justice Secretary David Lidington to introduce urgent changes of the type agreed by the former Justice Secretary Michael Gove before he was replaced by Liz Truss.
Mr Hardwick acknowledged some delays were down to the Parole Board but suggested they were “making good progress in putting those right.”

The other main reason for the delay, he added, is that it is so difficult for people to meet the legal test of demonstrating that they are not going to commit a serious offence in future.
The Ministry of Justice says it is working with the Parole Board to process the cases as quickly as possible and has set up a new unit focused on improving the efficiency of the parole process. In 2016, 576 IPP prisoners were freed.

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