‘Huge relief’ for victims of indefinite prison sentences after bill rushed through Parliament

Campaigners working to expose the “greatest single stain” on the UK’s criminal justice system expressed “huge relief” as the Victims and Prisoners Bill was rushed through Parliament last week.

On May 21, peers in the House of Lords agreed on key Government amendments to the bill to reform Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences.

IPP sentences do not have an end date, with prisoners remaining in custody until they can prove they don’t pose a risk.

The punishment was introduced in 2005 and scrapped in 2012 after widespread criticism. But it was not abolished retrospectively and almost 3,000 people given IPPs remain in prison. 

There were 11 IPP prisoners in HMP  Brixton and nine in HMP Wandsworth in 2022, according to a Freedom of Information request (FOI) obtained by The United Group for Reform of IPP campaign group.

Both prisons received scathing reports of overcrowding and unacceptable living conditions by the chief inspector of prisons in the last two years.

General view of Wandsworth prison (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Due to the nature of their sentence, IPPs are at higher risk of suicide and self-harm it’s alleged. Recent Government data showed 86 IPPs have killed themselves in prison since 2005, with an additional 33 self-inflicted IPP deaths in the community since 2019. 

While campaigners said Government concessions within the bill included “crucial measures”, the bill fell short of their ultimate demands – resentencing for all IPPs.

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in Vauxhall said: “It’s a huge relief that members of Parliament pulled their collective fingers out to get this legislation across the line. 

“If Parliament had failed to pass these small but important reforms, the impact on those serving IPPs, whether in prison or the community, would have been devastating.

“The battle to end the IPP sentence for good continues. I hope the new Government shows the imagination and seriousness of purpose, so lacking over recent years, and finishes the job.”

Pictured top: HMP Brixton  (Picture: Google Street View)

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