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Justice Committee launches inquiry into IPP sentences

21 September 2021

The Justice Committee launches an inquiry into indeterminate sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).

“The sentence was abolished in 2012 following heavy criticism; the coalition government at the time called the sentence “not defensible”. However, there are still more than 1,700 people in prison today serving an IPP sentence without a release date. Some 96% of those have completed their minimum term, known as their tariff. Over 500 people have been held in prison for over 10 years longer than the tariff they were given.

Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Brown of Eaton-Under-Heywood described the sentence as the “single greatest stain on our criminal justice system” in the Prison Reform Trust’s December 2020 report and Lord Blunkett, who introduced IPPs in 2005, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the number of people still in prison "weighs heavily” on him.

The amount of people being recalled to prison under the terms of IPP has risen significantly in the last 5 years. Once released, those serving an IPP sentence are subject to an indefinite licence and can be recalled for breaches of their licence conditions, some as minor as missed appointments. People with IPP sentences can apply to have their licence terminated 10 years after their initial release.

The Committee’s new inquiry will explore the possible legislative and policy options available to the Government to reduce the number of IPP prisoners.

It is seeking evidence on the experiences of IPP prisoners and the current barriers preventing release. It will also investigate how IPP sentences are managed in the community, the reasons for recall as well as the support available for prisoners.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Justice Committee Sir Robert Neill MP said:

It has been almost a decade since the last IPP sentence was handed down. Despite this there are still over 1,700 people in prison who do not know when they will be released.

The large numbers of people being recalled to prison under IPP suggests there is no end in sight to the problems created by this flawed sentence.

Our inquiry hopes to understand the problems caused by the continued existence of these sentences as well as to explore possible solutions that Government can bring about.”

Further information

Image: MoJ