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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

I was the first IPP prisoner/ When was the IPP sentence actually made?/ Law Solicitors and Barristers

I was the first IPP prisoner

Every month when I read Inside Time I hear about frustrated prisoners serving IPP sentences who are over tariff through no fault of their own. Well, I have to feel their pain. I was the first prisoner to receive an IPP sentence back in 2005, but in 2008 it was overturned at the Court of Appeal and changed to a determinate sentence, which was the best day of my life. I just want to reach out to those who are serving IPP sentences, particularly those who were sentenced around 2005, 06, 07 when judges were handing out IPPs like sweets to a baby with no real merit. If your crime did not cause serious physical or psychological harm to anyone or has been proved to have left the victim with mental health problems then your sentence is UNLAWFUL. It does not matter about your previous convictions the sentence is unlawful and therefore you have grounds to appeal on that basis alone. So do not give up your appeals no matter how long it has been since you were sentenced. I also feel for all the families who were told that IPP was going to be scrapped, only to find it did not affect those who had already been sentenced to IPP, I thought this was disgusting and an insult to those families. Do not give up on your appeals.

When was the IPP sentence actually made?
A. April 2005 to November 2005 This is the era when the impact of IPP sentencing was barely glimpsed, yet alone understood or felt. The original legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which came into effect in April 2005, made an IPP sentence mandatory in all but a small number of cases where there was, or might have been, a rebuttable assumption, i.e. the Court will assume you are dangerous unless ‘it is unreasonable to do so’.
In our opinion, initially at least, the Courts were exceedingly slow in appreciating that individuals would often spend a great deal of time within the prison estate, post tariff, as a result.
There was little or no extra resource put into the prison system e.g. via Courses, and it was far from unknown for Courts in those early days to not scrutinise the meaning of the words e.g. ‘rebuttable assumption’, or for defence teams to instruct a suitably qualified expert to validly assess risk.
In fact many early IPP offenders did have a previous qualifying offence on their record i.e. an offence that was classified as ‘serious’ or ‘specified’, which included the vast majority of sexual and violent offences. Such an offence could well have occurred many years earlier, and in our view Courts and their advisers were often remiss in not enquiring enough, about why some individuals did not reoffend for long periods.
As a result many cases progressed to IPP Sentence without issues of risk and seriousness being fully and adequately considered and tariffs were often exceedingly short, in some cases down to a few months or even 28 days.

B. December 2005 to July 2008 In November 2005, the Court of Appeal was able to consider 13 separate cases which, taken together, produced what is now known as the Lang judgement.
This judgement encourages and requires careful consideration of a number of issues which are both legal and psychological. These are mainly as follows –

i. It decouples the concept of significant risk i.e. the risk of re-offending which may indeed involve the commission of further offences with, on the other hand, the risk of causing serious harm as a result.
The judgement also encourages the Sentencing Court to identify the intention behind the index offence and in the same judgement, paragraph 8, requires Sentencing Courts to foresee what might be caused in the future.

ii. It therefore requires historical reconsideration of the legitimacy of an IPP sentence, and to consider very carefully indeed, those cases where serious harm has not been caused, e.g. by the avoidance of use of a weapon within a violent incident, and where, perhaps, the same pattern of offending had been demonstrated on previous, perhaps many, occasions.

Indeed it is important to note that even on the subject of weapon use or not, the sentence in the case of Hassan Abdi i.e. number 2 within the Lang Judgement, was marked by a quashing of a life sentence, no less, with the replacement of that with a determinate sentence even though a knife was actually carried, albeit concealed, within the offending spree.
C. July 2008 to the Present In July 2008 there was a major revision of the IPP Legislation. The law changed from making an IPP almost mandatory, to allowing Sentencing Courts to impose any sentence that they saw fit. In addition a minimum tariff of 2 years was set, but this could be shorter, again if there was a previous qualifying offence.

In our view, this moment marks a period where there was increasing awareness of the very large number of IPP sentenced prisoners, and the mismatch between them and the means by which they could demonstrate to the Parole Board that their risk has been reduced i.e. mainly Courses.

We believe that it is fair to say that Courts were applying more scrutiny to the need for an IPP, and of course, at around this time, the application to the European Court in the names of James, Wells and Lee, was beginning to have an influence.

All this combines to make appealing IPPs, handed down after July 2008, more difficult, but in our experience there are at least two rays of hope:

 If your IPP was on the basis of simply, and only, a Probation Report, this can sometimes be challenged, in that a Pre-Sentence Report.

Writer may not have had the time, the experience, skills, or access to the relevant research, in order to thoroughly advise the Courts.

Of course, if the Sentencing Court did commission its own report, on which it then chose to rely, that does make life more difficult. However in our experience, those cases are few and far between.

We are definitely of the view that Defence Teams were very remiss if they did not instruct an Independent Psychologist, at the very least, quite possibly also a Psychiatrist, to assess risk. We very much hope that the above advice may be of assistance.

 Law Solicitors and Barristers

We are Expert Prison Law Solicitors and Barristers and ... we were successful in achieving open conditions for one IPP prisoner who had extensive security .

 following that victory another IPP prisoner with a 9 month tariff has already served 3 years; ... securing his release.

 IPP/PAROL ADVICE: REVIEWS, REPRESENTATION AND APPEALS LAWTON CRIMINAL SOLCITORS  We are Expert Prison Law Solicitors and Barristers and ... we were successful in achieving open conditions for one IPP prisoner who had extensive security ..

... we offer continued expert legal representation in prison law. ... on your behalf to support the down grade in your security ... IPP prisoners, ... We employ the services of specialist lawyers dedicated to protecting the rights of the prisoner, experienced in offering comprehensive advice and assistance on matters including sentence planning, categorisation, adjudications, recall, parole hearings and resettlement matters including licence conditions.

provides legal advice and representation to prisoners serving Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP).We have conducted numerous appeals against IPP sentences but our work in this area is concentrated on helping clients to progress through their sentence towards release. 

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