People released from prison while serving the IPP sentence currently have to wait a minimum of 10 years before they can have their licence reviewed by the Parole Board.

This week, the government tabled amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which is currently before parliament, in order to make amendments to the current IPP regime. If enacted, changes will be made to The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.

The changes will mean that people will be referred for review three years after their first release. If a licence is not terminated at the three-year mark, it will end automatically after a further two years if the person is not recalled to prison in that time.

The changes will apply retrospectively, meaning that about 1,800 people should see their licences end when the legislation comes into force.

People who have been recalled to prison or taken into secure hospitals will not be eligible.

IPP sentences were abolished 11 years ago, but almost 3,000 people who were given them remain in prison today. Almost half have never been released; the remainder have been released on licence but later recalled to custody.

Whilst these are welcome changes, the Howard League is critical of this measured approach, commenting:

‘…the IPP scandal is a long way from being resolved. The changes will do little to help 1,200 people in prison who have never been released, and they will deal a further blow to 1,600 people who have been released on licence but since recalled. For them, an end to this shameful saga remains out of sight.’

Independently of these government proposals, a number of MP’s including Sir Bob Neill, chair of the Justice Committee, have tabled an amendment which could lead to the resentencing of many IPP prisoners.

The gist of the proposal is that:

‘The Lord Chancellor must make arrangements for, and relating to, the re-sentencing of all prisoners serving IPP sentences within 18 months beginning on the day on which this Act is passed.’

This new clause would implement the recommendation of the Justice Committee’s 2022 Report that there should be a resentencing exercise in relation to all IPP sentenced individuals, and to establish a time-limited expert committee, including a member of the judiciary, to advise on the practical implementation of such an exercise.

It is, however, not clear whether this amendment will carry government support.


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