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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue March 2012 from A IPP prisoners mother.

My son is an IPP prisoner, shortly becoming one of hundreds long past their tariff laid down by the courts when he was sentenced, this comes as worrying news indeed. To me and other families, it is nothing short of devastation. The families and children of those incarcerated in an unjust and unfair penal system we are suffering as our loved ones remain in custody when they should have been given the chance of release long ago.

I am a mother who has also had a lifelong struggle with severe dyslexia. Despite learning difficulties I feel so strongly about the matter that I’m fighting back for all IPP Prisoners . I have petitioned Members of the House of Lords ,lords bishops ,archbishops , the Queen to ask them to take this forward ,and an amendment to be put down to the legal aid, sentences and punishment of offenders Bill.

I am very apprehensive if proposed reforms of the IPP sentence are rejected or if their implementation fails, we will see one of the biggest miscarriages of justice ever to take place in the UK.I find that this country now has so much criminal legislation that it is almost impossible for anyone to leave their home and get to work without breaking the law somewhere along the way. If they do break the law, people face some of the longest sentences in Europe.

I have created facebook groups , jointly with IPP prisoners family site to petition .

Full Article: IPP and Literacy - Letter to Inside Time Newspaper

PP Continues to plague the prison system

By Erica Restall , from insidetime issue March 2011
The purpose of this article is to provide prisoners with an overview of the current developments insofar as the controversial IPP sentences are concerned.

When IPP sentences were first introduced the courts had no discretion in cases where a specific legal test was met. The Government at the time believed that there would be no need to introduce additional resources in to the prison system to enable these new types of prisoner satisfy the criteria for release by the Parole Board i.e.: to demonstrate that their risk to the public had been reduced and they were suitable for release on expiry of their mandatory tariff.
How wrong they were! It very soon became clear that the resources in place were insufficient to cope with the massive influx of IPP prisoners and the system was very quickly swamped. Between November 2003 and March 2007, the lifer population increased from 5475 to 8977 with no corresponding increase in the number of first and second stage lifer prison places.
The net effect of this was to create a huge bottle-neck in the system. Many IPP prisoners reached tariff expiry without having undertaken any courses or activities to address their risk offending behaviour. Most of these prisoners remained detained in local prisons which did not provide such facilities, with no hope of moving to a first stage lifer prison to commence the sentence planning process.The Government did attempt to address this problem through the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. This made IPP sentences no longer mandatory and only applicable where the minimum tariff imposed was 2 or more years.
Despite these changes, the problems within the system continue with prisoners unable to progress through the prison system and unable to access sentence planning and appropriate courses to address offending behaviour. It is only likely to get worse with budget cuts.
A claim for judicial review was brought against the Ministry of Justice in several cases in 2007. An appeal was finally brought before by the House of Lords in R (James and others) v Secretary of State for Justice [2009] UKHL 22; [2009] 2 WLR 1149. The House agreed with the lower courts in concluding that the Secretary of State had failed in its public law duty to put into place systems and resources necessary to furnish the IPP system. But the House did not go further to say that this failure meant that those prisoners detained post tariff were detained unlawfully and should be released. Similarly, the House did not consider that there had been breach of either Article 5(1) or 5(4) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
I lodged, together with solicitors for Stephensons and Russell and Russell, an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the decision of the House of Lords in relation Article 5(1) and 5(4) in July 2009. This is in James and others v UK. It is argued that the failure of the UK Government to put in place necessary resources to enable an IPP prisoner to demonstrate to the Parole Board that he is of reduced risk, makes detention of that individual post tariff contrary to the right to liberty under Article 5(1) and that a Parole Board hearing in those circumstances cannot be a meaningful review of the legality of post-tariff detention and so contrary to Article 5(4).
I am pleased to say that after an 18 month wait, the European Court has permitted the case to proceed. Last year only 37% of cases were allowed beyond this stage. This means that the Court accepts that this is a matter which requires closer scrutiny. The UK Government has now been asked to respond to our claim. Their response is expected in April. Thereafter, we will have 6 weeks to respond to the Government, following which the Court will make a decision. It is difficult to say when this will be.
If the UK Government wins then that will be the end of the matter. If, however, our claim is successful then (depending on what basis the Court has found a violation) the Court will issue a declaration that the IPP system is incompatible with the European Convention. As signatories to the ECHR the UK Government will then be required to take action to protect the rights of IPP prisoners. This may mean putting in place more resources, courses etc, allowing prisoners to bring compensation claims or it may go so far as to require the release of certain IPP prisoners who are post tariff.
Whilst the problem of IPP prisoners continues to plague the prison system, all I can say is watch this space…

Erica Restall, Solicitor for Mr James, Switalskis Solicitors LLP

I would like to thank Insidetimes for Pubishing my letter.A big thank you goes to Lorna elliott  Barrister & sponsor for ipp prisoners campaign & petition Prison Law, Criminal Law - Contact 02071932444 
Conrad and Amander Goodhill.

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