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A 5-point plan to resolve the IPP crisis
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has published a 5-point plan to resolve the IPP crisis for good.

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IPP Campaign

The campaign to right the ongoing injustices of the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence has gathered impetus since the House of Commons Justice Committee’s report in September 2022 which made a number of recommendations including reducing the licence period and re-sentencing everyone subject to an IPP. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies made another important contribution yesterday when it published a 5-point plan to tackle the issue in a new report: “How to resolve the IPP crisis for good”.


The report is written in (typical for CCJS) forthright terms, arguing that “the Government’s responses to the Justice Committee recommendations still fail to answer its critics, cling to a discredited and arbitrary policy of preventive detention and will likely compound the resulting psychological harms to individuals and families.” The report has 5 aims:

  1. to highlight the depth of the crisis caused by the failures of the Government to give due weight to evidence about the toxic impacts of the IPP sentence;
  2. to analyse and review the Government’s Action Plan and more recent announcements;
  3. to show how the label of dangerousness applied to the sentenced population is too problematic to sustain;
  4. to argue that preventive detention on the basis of risk has led to confusion and despair; and
  5. to propose an agenda for action which can bring effective and appropriate change.

Preventive detention

The report is particularly persuasive when it untangles the preventive detention which is core to the IPP sentence and central to most of the injustices. Its author, Roger Grimshaw –  Research Director at CCJS) – points out that people who serve similar periods in custody with no fixed point of release have usually committed a very grave crime (such as murder) whose length of sentence reflects society’s retribution for such a serious act. By contrast, most IPPs are kept many years past their tariff, despite having often committed much less serious offences, on the basis of a hypothetical risk of committing future harm. 

The longer many people on IPPs are imprisoned with no clear pathway to release, the more significant the adverse impact on their psychological wellbeing and resilience. Of course, it is the norm for people’s mental health to deteriorate after years of incarceration and an unpredictable date of release. The paradox is that they are then assessed as being as presenting a greater risk and are less likely to be granted release, effectively compounding the injustice of serving many years past tariff for their original offence.

The facts and figures

The scale of the injustice is clear. The most recent official data shows that:

  • Despite its abolition over 10 years ago, there are 1,269 people in prison serving an IPP sentence who have never been released. Nearly all (98%) are still in prison despite having already served their tariff—the minimum period they must spend in custody and considered necessary to serve as punishment for the offence.
  • Nearly three in five unreleased IPP prisoners (58%) have spent an additional 10 years in prison on top of their original tariff. One in 14 (7%) have served an additional 15 years. Over half (59%) had an original tariff of less than four years.
  • 212 people have never been released from prison, despite receiving a tariff of less than two years. Almost every one of them (194 people) has served a further ten years or more in addition to their original tariff.

The chart below is reproduced from the most recent Bromley Briefing.

The 5-point plan

The five action points in the CCJS document are:

  1. As an immediate measure, the standard regime restrictions placed on those over tariff should be eased, so that they enjoy greater access to visits and better cell conditions.
  2. The Secretary of State should release on compassionate grounds the most distressed prisoners and advise the Parole Board to facilitate release of those serving the longest periods beyond their tariffs; it would be for the Parole Board after a fair hearing to impose such community restrictions as it sees fit in individual cases for specific periods.
  3. Following expert advice and review of resentencing options, Parliament should legislate for the systematic commutation of IPP cases in broad categories, where necessary authorising referrals to mental health tribunals, and reserving fresh judicial examination for any complex cases.
  4. A Recovery and Reparations programme to address the disastrous personal consequences of the sentence should be designed with urgency and due scope.
  5. A fundamental legislative review of all forms of preventive detention in the UK should be set in motion.


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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