What were IPP Sentences?

IPP Sentences were created in 2003 and came into use in 2005. They were designed to protect the public from dangerous offenders whose crimes did not merit a life sentence. Offenders sentenced to an IPP sentence were set a minimum ‘term’- or ‘tariff’- that they had to serve before they could apply for parole. There was no provision for automatic release, with the Parole Board being the arbiter of whether an individual was safe to be released. In theory, an IPP prisoner could remain in custody for the rest of their lives in the event that the Parole Board repeatedly declined to direct their release.

What was the problem with IPP sentences?

Despite being introduced to protect the public from dangerous offenders, IPPs were frequently used to sentence low- level offenders, with some tariffs being set as low as two years. At their height, IPPs were being handed down at a rate of 800 per year. The sheer number of prisoners serving IPP sentences with low tariffs has also led to an increase in institutionalised individuals who, disheartened that their release had not been directed (despite committing relatively low- level offences), resorted to disengaging from the support services offered in custody. A notable public example of this is Wayne Bell who, after being given an IPP for an aggravated theft at 17, remains in custody 12 years later with little prospect of release.

Can the Courts still pass IPP Sentences?

IPP Sentences were abolished in 2012 following a ruling by the European Court that they breached the human rights of prisoners. Former Home Secretary David Blunkett- who introduced IPPs in 2003- has since expressed regret about the impact of the sentence. New ‘Extended Determinate Sentences’ were introduced following the abolition of IPPs. These new sentences allowed Courts to impose minimum ‘tariffs’ after which prisoners could apply for release, but also allowed that prisoners had to be released after a fixed period, even if the Parole Board had not previously directed their release.

Do existing IPP Prisoners remain subject to their original sentences?

Unfortunately, despite IPPs being abolished, prisoners who were previously sentenced to IPPs remain subject to their sentences. This means that the Parole Board remain the sole arbiter as to whether they are safe to be released and individuals whose release is not directed face the prospect of remaining in custody until such a time as they are deemed safe to release. Recent figures suggest that there are 2,500 prisoners in custody subject to IPP sentences.

WMB Law are the only firm in Shropshire with a dedicated Prison Law department and are able to assist clients subject to IPP sentences who are applying for Parole. We have a proven track record of securing release for IPP prisoners, even in cases where release is not being recommended initially. We are contactable by telephone on 01952 291 100 or by post at Kingsland House, Stafford Park 1, Telford TF3 3BD.