Prisoner held indefinitely refused parole after making landmark public bid for freedom

Nicholas Bidar was the first IPP prisoner to have his parole hearing held in public (Supplied)
Nicholas Bidar was the first IPP prisoner to have his parole hearing held in public (Supplied)

A parole board has refused to release a prisoner trapped under an abolished indefinite jail term described as “torture”.

Earlier this month Nicholas Bidar became the first IPP prisoner to have his parole bid held in public after new laws came into force to increase transparency around parole decisions.

Controversial imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences were scrapped in 2012 amid human rights concerns, but not for those already sentenced, leaving thousands languishing in jail for years beyond their original prison terms.

The 36-year-old was handed an indefinite jail term with an eight-year minimum for a string of robberies and using a gun to resist arrest aged 20 in 2008.

But more than 15 years later he is still being held in a maximum-security Category A prison with no release date.

He told the panel of three parole board members “I’m not that person anymore” as he made a public bid for freedom, but they today announced they were not satisfied his release would be safe for the protection of the public.

The panel also refused to recommend Mr Bidar for move to open conditions, but did recommend urgent steps be taken to help him towards being downgraded from a high-risk Category A prisoner.

In a written decision, the board noted that “Mr Bidar’s category A status is now interfering with his potential to bring about and sustain change in the longer term” and called for “immediate action” to be taken - even though the parole board is not responsible for categorisation decisions.

They also urged the Secretary of State to grant a fresh parole review in a years time.

Ahead of the landmark hearing, Mr Bidar told The Independent how the reality of his uncertain sentence has impacted him, adding: “Every day feels like torture. I struggle daily to get through the day.”

At the hearing held at prison in March, Mr Bidar, who was also convicted of further assaults committed in prison and a period in which he escaped custody, said he does not recognise the version of himself that committed those crimes.

He told the panel of three Parole Board members at HMP Long Lartin: “I look back at it now as if it wasn’t even me. It sounds mad yeah, it’s as if I’m in jail now for someone else’s crimes because I’m not that person.”

He told the board members: “I apologise for what I have done. I recognise everything I have done. I am not a nutter I am not going to go out and commit some crazy violent offence – it’s not in me.

“I just want to go home. I just want to go home. My mum is getting older. I will stick to all the rules. I am not going to commit any offence. You can put any tag on me. ”

Prisoner trapped in jail makes landmark parole bid: ‘It’s torture’ (Getty)
Prisoner trapped in jail makes landmark parole bid: ‘It’s torture’ (Getty)

He insisted he would not go on to reoffend if he were released or moved to open conditions, adding that he avoids violence on a daily basis at the high security prison.

“Every two weeks, every three weeks, someone is getting stabbed here…hot watered,” he said. “I am avoiding all those sorts of things. I am not getting involved in criminal activity.”

Despite previously escaping custody, he insisted he would never abscond again, adding: “This is my one chance and I am aware of it.”

He told the panel he hoped to find work as a personal trainer or a barber if released and he has the support of his mother and sister.

However, giving evidence to the panel, his prison offender manager refused to recommend Mr Bidar for release or move to open conditions, insisting inappropriate or negative behaviour has been a “pattern throughout his whole sentence”.

Although he has completed programs available to him in prison, she said he needs to “consolidate” the work that he’s already done at a Psychologically Informed Planned Environment (PIPE) unit.

“Mr Bidar can be a very clever gentleman when he’s in that frame of mind but he can also be very rude and quite petulant when he’s challenged,” she told the panel.

She raised concerns about comments made to female prison staff and added that he has a problem with authority.

Mr Bidar, who takes medication for ADHD, admitted he can be “inappropriate, cheeky or rude” and said there had been “blips” in his behaviour, but added: “I may tell someone of f*** off one day but I don’t think it deserves to keep me in here for another two years in high security jail treating me like some murderer or psychopath.”

Questioned about a previous incident in prison where he was sanctioned for being drunk and shouting abuse at his cell door, he said: “That doesn’t mean I should stay in here for another two years…every day is torture. I s*** and p*** in a bucket. It’s just hell man.

“I just want one chance – that’s all I want. If I mess it up it’s on me.”

A senior prison officer who gave evidence to the panel said Mr Bidar worked as cleaner and rehabilitation representative for the wing – a role in which he supports prisoners who are struggling.

In the statement issued to The Independent through his lawyer from inside the Worcestershire jail earlier this month, Mr Bidar said he has completed his sentence plan and is ready for release – adding that a 2021 parole board previously recommended he should be moved to open conditions.

Despite the parole board decision, the move was blocked by the secretary of state for justice who refused to downgrade him from a Category A high-risk prisoner.

He argues this has left him a “political prisoner” until the justice secretary Alex Chalk agrees he should progress.

“I’m exhausted by the sentence. Life is passing me by. I did wrong. I’ve spent a long time doing courses and those who assess me have consistently said I’ve completed my sentence plan,” he previously told The Independent.

In a statement earlier this month, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have reduced the number of unreleased IPP prisoners by three-quarters since we scrapped the sentence in 2012.

“We have also taken decisive action to curtail licence periods and continue to help those still in custody to progress towards release by improving access to rehabilitation programmes and mental health support.”