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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

UK government rejects Committee recommendation to review IPP sentences

UK government rejects Committee recommendation to review IPP sentences


Committee report called for a review of Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences

The UK government has rejected a recommendation made by the Justice Committee calling for a review of all indefinite prison sentences imposed under legislation known as Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). The UK government has now responded to the Justice Committee’s 2022 report on IPP sentences rejecting several of its key recommendation, including that prisoners still detained under the scheme should be resentenced.

The Justice Committee’s report states that IPP sentences are “irredeemably flawed” and calls the now abolished IPP scheme “the single greatest stain on our criminal justice system.” Despite the abolishment of the scheme in 2012, the Committee claims that almost 3000 people remain detained under the legislation.  

The government’s response explains that His Majesty's Prison and Probation Service has already begun a review of the current action plan concerning IPP offenders, which is focused on improved, clear performance measures, achievable deadlines and a robust governance structure, in order to provide opportunities for those serving an IPP sentence to progress towards a safe and sustainable release.

Specifically on the Committee’s primary recommendation on the resentencing of all remaining IPP offenders who have not yet had their licence terminated, the government states “Retrospective resentencing of IPP offenders could lead to the immediate release of many offenders who have been assessed as unsafe for release by the Parole Board, many with no period of supervision in the community. The Government’s long-held view is that this would give rise to an unacceptable risk to public protection and that the IPP Action Plan, suitably updated, remains the best option by which these offenders can progress towards safe release. As such, the Government has no plans to conduct a resentencing exercise.”

The government has also rejected the recommendation that the licence period during which released IPP prisoners can be recalled to custody for breach of their conditions be reduced from ten years to five years. However, the government did state that it will review the policy and practice for suspending the supervision requirements of the IPP licence.

Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill, calls the government’s response a “missed opportunity to right a wrong that has left nearly 3,000 people behind.” He adds that the Committee’s recommendations recognised that addressing this issue would not be easy, which is why the report also recommended that a committee of experts be specifically set up to advise on the resentencing of IPP offenders.

“We are not only disappointed with this government response but genuinely surprised. There is now a growing consensus that a resentencing exercise is the only way to comprehensively address the injustice of IPP sentences and that this can be done without prejudicing public protection,” concludes Neill. “Our report said this nettle needed to be grasped by all three branches of the State – Government, Parliament and the Judiciary. But the government has not listened. The nettle has not been grasped and, as a result, these people will remain held in an unsustainable limbo.”