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Human rights organisation Justice has called for fundamental reform of the system of indeterminate sentencing for public protection (IPP).
Justice senior legal officer Sally Ireland said IPPs had recently been thrown into turmoil by the High Court judgments in Wells v Parole Board (2007), Walker v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2007) and James v Secretary of State for Justice (2007).
Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, if an offender is found to pose a significant risk to the public they must serve a tariff period and then remain in prison until they are able to prove that they have been rehabilitated.
In the three cases the High Court found that detaining the offenders after their tariff had expired without any assessment of their rehabilitation was unlawful.
According to Justice, these cases could result in the release of some IPP prisoners without proper assessments taking place.
“IPP is a flawed policy with a flawed execution,” Ireland said. “The Criminal Justice Act dragged too many people into the IPP net and the Government hasn’t put sufficient resources in place for them to be rehabilitated. The criteria is too broad.”
Ireland said IPP enables judges to impose what are effectively life sentences for a range of offences.
She added that another problem is that IPP prisoners are required to complete a number of courses before they are released, but the Government had not put enough of those in place.
“There are far more people sentenced to IPP than the Government expected, but the courses aren’t in place in the quantity that they should be,” she said. “We hope that [Secretary of State for Justice] Jack Straw’s review of IPPs will recognise the need for urgent reform.”
Straw announced the review in July during a visit to Belmarsh Prison in East London.