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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

“I call the IPP the sentence that turns the light off,” MORE than one in five prisoners IPP prisoners have no idea when they will be released.

Figures obtained by our sister paper, the Swindon Advertiser, through a Freedom Of Information request revealed that 68 of the 385 prisoners at HMP Erlestoke are serving a type of sentence known as an IPP, which stands for imprisonment for public protection.

Introduced under the last Labour government in 2005, the IPP scheme allowed judges to decide that certain people would not be released from prison, even once they had served the appropriate amount of time for their crime, until a parole board decided to let them out.

Judges were only supposed to use their IPP power for individuals who they deemed posed “a significant risk of serious harm” to the public.

But in practice the sentences were doled out far more often than anticipated. Some 8,711 men and women were given IPP sentences before the coalition government abolished the scheme in 2012.

The then Prison Minister Crispin Blunt said at the time: “We have 6,000 IPP prisoners, well over 2,500 have exceeded their tariff point.

“Many cannot get on courses because our prisons are wholly overcrowded and unable to address offending behaviour. That is not a defensible position.”

But five years on, prisons are still packed with prisoners who have no release date. Many are now years past the point at which a judge said they should be considered for release.

At HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire’s only prison, 58 of the 68 IPP prisoners are over their tariff; 48, 70 per cent, are more than two years over.

Of these 68 men, only 11 have been given a date to go before the parole board and not a single one has been granted a release date.

Liz Gwinnell, a Melksham-based solicitor with law firm Duncan Lewis, is a specialist in prison law and has represented a number of IPP prisoners at HMP Erlestoke.

“I call the IPP the sentence that turns the light off,” said Ms Gwinnell. “It takes away hope.

“It is slightly better now because more is known about it but in the early years it was dreadful.

“It was mostly young men who were imprisoned under the IPP - yes they needed a prison sentence and they needed to be punished but they suddenly found themselves facing something they just didn’t have a clue about. They really lose hope.”

Liz said that over the years, the problems associated with the backlog of IPP prisoners have changed repeatedly.

At times there have been difficulties securing place for prisoners on the relevant rehabilitation courses to demonstrate progress to the parole board, at other times there have been delays in securing a date for the parole hearings themselves.

At present there are issues around unnecessary delays with hearings being delayed and deferred and the requirement for psychological reports and similar documentation not being outlined early enough in the process.

Liz said that improving administrative efficiency, even down to beginning a day’s parole hearing schedule at 9am rather than 10.30am, could play a part in reducing the backlog - but like many she acknowledges that more fundamental changes are probably needed.

Various ways of reducing the backlog have been mooted in recent years as the pressure of the IPP prisoner population has continued to have an impact on the already-strained prison estate.

Former justice secretary Michael Gove has suggested that using executive powers to order the release of large swathes of the prisoners serving IPP sentences who have already passed their tariff could be an option.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales and formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, has suggested reversing the burden of proof so that it is for the state to show that a prisoner remains a risk to the safety of the community and not the prisoner.

He argues that such a move would speed up progress and allow more over-tariff prisoners to be released sooner.

But until these changes are actually implemented, the prisoners in IPP limbo at Erlestoke and across the prison estate are left to deal with all the added complications and hurdles that their predicament presents.

One of the worst examples of the mental strain that IPP sentences can place on a prisoner came in 2010, when a 25-year-old IPP prisoner, one of Liz Gwinnell’s first client’s at HMP Erlestoke, was found hanged from a bedsheet in his cell.

Dan Smith was given a tariff of 18 months but at the time of his death he had already served three years. His mother told an inquest into his death that he had “lost all hope of release”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are working hard to reduce the backlog of hearings involving IPP prisoners.

"We have set up a new unit within the Ministry of Justice to tackle this issue and are working with the Parole Board to improve the efficiency of the process.

"Our efforts are focussed on giving IPP prisoners the support, opportunities and motivation they need to progress more quickly when they are reviewed by the parole board so that they have the best possible prospect for securing release.”

 Staff all but lost control and imates seeking protection.




Yet another thing to thank the Labour Party for then?

Nick Hardwick is right that the onus should be on the state bureaucrats to evidence why the sentence should be extended. For recidivists perhaps some form of secure sheltered accommodation away from the general population is appropriate rather than a standard prison regime?

Backlog eh? - perhaps the stick should be brought out on the shiny arsed bureaucrats sitting in their £2000 Herman Miller chairs? 


Subject: RE: Invitation IPP
Hi Katherine I trust you are well.

I had a letter today from John .......... He has finally been released and he asked me to pass on his details to you.  (Approved Premises) ................. London . Hi is living close to his family who from what I understand is being very supportive which is good. Ten and a half years is a long time and he will be adjusting for some time. 

I will leave it to you if you want to get in touch.

Kind regards

John Roberts – Director/Publisher
the National Newspaper for Prisoners
PO Box 251 Hedge End Hampshire SO30 4XJ
MAIN TEL: 01489 795945
DD: 01489 669875 (will divert to mobile if not answered immediately)

There is light at the end of the tunnel!!... my brother has been granted parole FINALLY!! 11 year on a 2 year IPP sentence. It's not gonna be easy I know this, he has many conditions on his licence but he is finally walking forward and not standing still. I will think about each and everyone of the IPP'S as if they were my own, I know how hard it affects families. NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. WE HEAR YA

Thought I should share this article as Ms A is a friend of mine. She is an over tariff IPP. You will not her perceived risk was classed as 'low' but she still was denied release. Probation issue, but hopefully some good news may come soon.       

Hi Katherine
Hope you don't mind my writing to you but I 'm not sure who else to turn to?

My partner is an IPP. He was given a tariff of 3 1/2 years but has now entered his 13th year and has only had two paroles in this time. His last was early November 2016 which was a complete shambles from beginning to end. They didn't have most of the paperwork required - I was asked to be present as a family member but was never addressed till the very end when I was thanked for coming. It took them till mid January 2017 to tell him he didn't get parole ( which we had already figured for ourselves.) 
He is really at the end and has had enough and often wanders how things would be if he had pleaded not guilty because he was told to go guilty as he would get a lighter sentence - NOT thinking 99 years!The prison are not doing anything that he needs to help him with his aim of moving forward. We do not expect a release but gradual would be a start.How are things moving with the Government on IPPs? Things seem VERY quiet as if they just think these men /women will just go away.



As per my email next up is the meeting.This event, due to take place on the 16th May has been postponed until further 22 June:

What if we rethought parole?

Speakers: Nicola Padfield, Professor Nick Hardwick, Dr Laura Jones    

Chair: Dr Meredith Rossner

This lecture will discuss the present presumption that a parolee has to demonstrate they are not at risk of repeated offending and suggest that it should be the State to demonstrates the prisoner remains a risk..

Background information to the SpeakersNicola Margaret Padfield is a British barrister and academic. She is the current Master of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, since her appointment in October 2013.   I have a very broad academic lens, interested in all things criminal, from substantive law, through procedure and evidence to sentencing, and what goes on in prison (and post-sentence enforcement. 

Email: 02/05/2017

Dear all,
We are happy to let you know that we have rescheduled our, What if we rethought parole debate to the revised date of Thursday 22nd June, from 7.00pm-8.30pm in the Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE.

We would like to offer you the opportunity to book your place using the link below- please do so by Monday 8th May, as after that date we will be advertising this event to a wider audience.

i wrote to the Ministry of Justice,
Could you please tell me how many prisoners are still serving ipp sentences. And how many have lost there families by being moved to prisons where family members can't afford to travel to.
Also how many have mental issues from being stuck in a system with no help.
Yours faithfully,
Tanya deacon


Firstly, I hope you don’t mind me contacting you I found your details on the Ipp family blog and I have seen all of the work you have done for the ipp’s . We are at out wits end and don’t know what else to do and we would be grateful for any advice or guidance you can offer about our situation.

My Son is Ipp he got 3 years and 124 days back in 2007, he has completing all of his courses and even voluntarily completed extra courses. Paul was granted an oral hearing this time last year for 8th July 2016, we turned up with his solicitor, offender supervisor and offender manager to be told the psychologist was not there and the parole board member wouldn’t be attending so there could be no hearing. He was obviously gutted and the parole board member who was there could see Paul’ devastation and said he would personally make himself available for Paul’ hearing and make sure it was listed as soon as possible. Paul was then listed again on January 3th, we all got there and again there was no psychologist meaning that the oral hearing would not be taking place again. Due to this happening twice now the parole board members one of whom was the man from before said they would have a discussion about possible outcomes so that Paul felt he had at least spoken to the parole board members, it was said that Paul could be put forward to be released to a pipe hostel, where he would have to stay for 12 weeks, the offender manager explained there was a waiting list for this of about 3 months.

The chairman said for this to happen they would need a psychologist so asked the prison to organise a hcr 20 to make sure the psychologist would actually turn up to the next oral hearing, he also said due to this situation happening twice he would make Paul was priority and set an oral date for any time after 17th April. The chairman said to Paul I can see you’re disappointed with April for the hearing but that will give time to get everything sorted out. Therefore we were expecting an oral hearing date for April/May.

However, we have now been told that all of the listing has already been completed for June so Paul is looking at it being at least July before he gets a hearing. Once we have the hearing Paul will then have to wait about 3 months to go to the hostel so even if it is in July which will already be a year on from when he should have had the original hearing he won’t be in a hostel until October.

I am struggling to know what to do next as the solicitor is legal aid and says there is nothing she can do due to legal cuts, so we’ll have to wait.

I have tried to speak to the parole board but I don’t get told anything and Paul has spoken with offender supervisor and manager to see what can be done but we are getting no where. My other concern is over the last 18 months or so Paul has started to self harm something which he has never done before, his reason when I try to talk to him about it is he can longer see there is light at the end of the tunnel and really does believe he will never be let out. I really don’t know what to do next any advice would be greatly appreciated, or anyone we could write to in order to raise this issue
Thank you for replying, he has been assessed as high risk, they have said that this won’t come down until he is tested in outside conditions.

Paul has seen the prison psychologist which they have to do and she has recommended a progressive move to outside conditions at either a pipe hostel or approved premises whichever has the shortest waiting time.
Paul was granted an oral hearing this time last year and when we arrived at the hearing in July we were told a parole member and psychologist had not turned up so it would be deferred, due to the deferral and the time scale of being re listed Paul volunteered to do building better relationships course as the course would have been finished by the time he was re listed, this was not on his sentence plan and he has no charges relating to this but he thought it would help.

Then he was relisted for January and again we got in the room and were told the psychologist had not turned up again so it would be deferred, due to this happening twice they said they would have a small discussion about what the possibilities were and the offender manager said she would support releases to a pipe hostel due to the time Paul had been in prison she believed it would be better for him to be in a more structured hostel environment until he is resettled.

The parole then said if the psychologist agreed with this once the new assessment was done then this would be the way forward.
Paul hasn't been turned down for parole as we have never sat the hearing it has been granted but then deferred twice. In the deferral letter from January it is said the parole board should aim for a relisting date of anywhere after the April 17th with Paul being prioritised. However, he has not been listed yet and I have spoken to the parole board and they are saying it wont be listed until at least the end of June.
Paul has severe dyslexia and struggles to read and write which is where we are having difficulty because nothing is being explained to him and he is expected to read everything himself so doesn't know what goes on.

The new psychologist has said in her report that more detail needs to given to James when explaining things to Paul and makes sure he understands things, but other than her he is left with the situation of not really understanding what letters say.
The situation is now at a point where he is struggling to cope as he has recommendations for release off the psychologist and offender manager, but through no fault of his own is stuck waiting for an oral hearing date that was originally listed for last year 8th July 2016.
Mentally he is thinking he wont be coming home as he keeps getting into the room for the oral hearing and it is deferred,  it’s horrible I have been there in the room both times when it has been deferred and it tortures him he broke down crying the first time, he goes in thinking he’s got positive recommendations this could be release and doesn't get anywhere. Paul has sent me a copy of the deferral letter from the parole and they say it isn’t his fault and he will be prioritised. 
Many thanks,

Dear Mary, it saddens me to hear about his case and i regularly here and more must be urgently done to change the state of affairs. .  I am pleased to hear parole are going to prioritised him and im sure there will be change. Additionally  contact the independent prison Ondesman they take cases  on behalf of  prisoners. 
Many prisoners are released on Medium risk rather than High and then lowered in the community.  
If  a prisoner is High Cat many feel going to a Independent psychologist give a lower result than a prison psychologist as some feel prison psychologist  could be bias if over his tariff   a  short amount he may want to way up that  probation are  letting  out  those prisoners the longest over  tariff first.

Any  psychologist  demand there fully qualified and not trainees unless with a qualified psychologist.You mention he has Dyslexia "use the disability law  demand he has an
Appreciate  and  qualified  adult in the room  with him so that he understands what is being asked of him
 Having said that people with hidden disability are being neglected in prison the disability act does not seem to apply. Many people with hidden disability often have overlapping disability to fully participate and understand those with disability’s must have that support and I would take this up with a solicitor and prison Ombudsman. 

 Many people with hidden disability often have overlapping disability for him to  fully participate and understand he must have that support .He will need to have question repeated so that he can process what been asked or said.  He would need help reading paper work difficult words. Support with his memory order and sequence of words.
Those with Dyslexia or other can look as though they are being hesitant but in fact there trying to    recall what to say this in order and sequence due to poor memory.  Sequencing information and tasks in the right order can be hard  ... Working memory issues cause some to lose hold of the proper order for doing things. Trouble making sense of what others are saying being a snap shot.

Prison Statistics According to the Ministry of Justice (2011) the prison population at 31 March 2012 was 87,531 offenders in England. Research by Dyslexia Action (Rack, 2005) demonstrated that there is an overrepresentation within the prison population of those with literacy difficulties and those who have dyslexia/SpLD. Around 50% of the prison population have poor literacy skills and 20% of offenders were found to be dyslexic, which is 10% above the population norm. According to the NOMS Annual Report and Accounts 2010-11 the cost on average per prisoner is just under £27,000 per year. The UK tax payer is therefore paying in excess of £710 million per annum just for the over-representation of those with poor literacy skills.

 No one knows
Dyslexia and law
Dyslexia and courts
Competence and Capacity



"There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice" - Charles De Montequieu
This book will clearly show a two-tier legal system in operation. £3.99

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