Danny Weatherston 'trapped' 10 years into a 13 month jail sentence Danny had to serve 13 months before applying for parole - but under an Imprisonment for Public Protection sentence he is still in jail a decade later
behind bars for more than nine years, frustrated Danny Weatherson has attempted to kill himself as he continues to fight for his release.
Danny was just 18 when a judge recommended he served almost 16 months for two attempted robberies before he could apply for parole - but almost a decade on, he still has no release date.
His time inside has been in high security prisons including HMP Northumberland, HMP Moorlands in Doncaster, HMP Armley in Leeds, HMP Frankland in Durham and is now in HMP Hull. And he has taken to self-harm to get him through his days.
But his family says in February the Parole Board said Danny could be moved to a category D open prison.
However, just weeks later, he was told the prison that had been chosen was changed and Danny slit his throat as his hopes were shattered.
His solicitor, Shirley Noble, says he is being kept inside as he “poses a risk to himself” and uses the self-harming mechanism to release the pain he suffers emotionally.
He is now being kept in a hospital wing were he can be continually monitored.
Now Danny’s dad, Maurice Stevens, is hitting out at the system after his son was locked up under the controversial Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence which came into force for England and Wales in 2005 but was axed in 2012.
It was intended to protect the public against criminals whose crimes were not serious enough to merit a normal life sentence but who were regarded as too dangerous to be released when the term of their original sentence had expired.
Ministry of Justice data shows the number of IPP prisoners still being held since the sentences was abolished has reduced over the past year - from 4,756 on March 31 2015 to 4,133 on March 31 2016.
The authorities admits the IPP sentence was widely criticised and “used far more widely than intended”. And this is why it was replaced with a new regime of tough, determinate sentences, alongside life sentences for the most serious offenders.
Maurice, 44, of Lemington, Newcastle, says he has seen Danny’s mood deteriorate. “He has nothing to live for,” said Maurice, a builder, who will next visit him on July 18 when he celebrates his 28th birthday.
“He cut his throat with a razor about seven or eight times, I don’t know what he will do next.”
Justice secretary Michael Gove has ordered a review of the position of thousands of prisoners serving an IPP sentence. Many are considered to be languishing inside because they are several years over the minimum sentence they were given.
Danny, of Scotswood, Newcastle, who had been in trouble for a string on minor crimes before being jailed, is among those who feels they have been left to rot behind bars.
Dad-of-two Maurice added: “He has been knocked back about five times by the Parole Board but in February they all said he would be eligible for a category D open prison. But a week or two later inside probation said he wasn’t suitable. She had only met him twice and she doesn’t know him to make a decision like this.
“In late March he slit his throat with a razor blade, he’s got the scars. You can tell he is hurting inside. These IPP sentences mean he has no target date to get out and he is going year after year and getting nowhere. He is sick of his life, you can tell in his eyes he has nothing to live for.
“There are thousands of people stuck in the system on these IPPs and they are languishing in jail. The probation and the parole boards don’t know what to do with them. They were abolished in 2012 but still Danny and so many others are stuck in prison.”
Mr Gove has asked chairman of the parole board Nick Hardwick to review how IPP prisoners are treated.
While the justice secretary has said that dangerous offenders must be kept inside, he says he wants the majority of IPP prisoners to be “given hope and a reason to engage in rehabilitative activity”. He wants to see the prison population reduced.
Danny’s solicitor Shirley Noble, of Northumberland based Alderson Law Solicitors, said: “In summary, it is fair to say that Danny had a minimum term of one year, three months and 26 days imposed upon him on February 16, 2007, and his tariff expired on the April 13, 2008.
“Danny has progressed well during his sentence although he has had the odd ‘blip’, some of which is understandable in what is an artificial environment. He has completed all of the core risk reduction work which has been recommended for him as part of his sentence plan and has demonstrated that he has good interpersonal skills. In fact Danny could be described as an articulate, intelligent man.
“I personally believe that as a result of the time he has been incarcerated along with the frustration of not having an end date to his sentence, he has lost his identity. He appeared before the Parole Board in February 2016 when the panel recommended a progressive move to open conditions. This obviously gave Danny some hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel. However due to an adverse development which was subsequently resolved the prison made contact with the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) to revoke the recommendation. He self-harmed severely as a means of coping with the disappointment. The prison now say he should not progress to open, he is still a risk, however he is a risk of harm to himself as opposed to the public. This is a method he uses to deal with stress and anxiety and a belief he is being let down. Keeping him incarcerated will only exacerbate this and in the meantime he becomes more institutionalised, treading water so to speak and trying to be normal in an abnormal environment with no light at the end of the tunnel. A prison environment is unlikely to be able to manage the self-harm issues effectively, whilst he does have constructive positive engagement with mental health but the prison is there to help him rehabilitate, which he has strived to do.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The number of IPP prisoners has reduced over the past year.
“However, we recognise there are problems in the system, so the justice secretary has asked the chairman of the Parole Board to develop an improved approach to the parole system for these offenders.
“We continue to prioritise IPP prisoners for places on courses and provide other interventions to help them reduce their risk and progress towards release.”