Prisoners serving open-ended sentences not forgotten, says justice minister

Prisoners serving open-ended sentences have not been forgotten and the Government is committed to a “robust” release plan, a justice minister said.

Lord Bellamy told peers he is determined to “get rid of” the idea that there is no hope for those serving the long-abolished, indefinite sentences.

Imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences were introduced in 2005 to prevent serious offenders who did not warrant a life sentence being released when they still pose a danger to the public.

Despite being scrapped in 2012, almost 3,000 criminals remain behind bars after being given such a sentence.

HMP Fosse Way
Lord Bellamy said he wants to dispel the idea that there is no hope for those given indefinite sentences (Jacob King/PA Images)

Lord Bellamy said a “robust, coherent and detailed” action plan is being developed for the 1,227 prisoners who have never been released.

As peers continue their line-by-line scrutiny of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, Lord Bellamy said: “The Government … is developing a robust, coherent and detailed action plan in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including the families, with the aim that each prisoner has a tailored sentence plan and appropriate support and clear objectives to work towards eventual release.”

He continued: “Aside from having committed many serious offences, many suffer from trauma, from mental health issues, from substance issues, and so on.

“The Government is determined to see this cohort further reduced, and to rebut and get rid of – if I may so – this idea that there is no hope.

“In the Government’s view, no one has given up on the IPP prisoners who have never been released. They have to be worked on and that is a hard task but one that the Government – any government – should take on.

“For example the number of those released has been reducing over the last two years, roughly 200 a year, and there are now 200 of these prisoners in open conditions who are being prepared for further release.

“It’s not as if nothing is going on, it’s not as if things are just vegetating and no one’s caring. The Government is very focused on doing something about this most difficult cohort.”

Offenders released from prison on licence while serving an IPP sentence currently have to wait at least 10 years before they can have their licence reviewed by the Parole Board.

Earlier in the debate, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, who founded the Crime Concern charity and its successor, Catch22, said he finds “relentless IPP tragedies around every corner” when visiting prisons across the UK.

The independent crossbencher said a man he met in December had been released from an IPP sentence 14 years ago but was recalled back to prison in September because he forgot to tell his probation officer he was going on holiday to Spain with his wife for two weeks.

Lord Hastings described this as “sheer stupidity”, adding: “He doesn’t deserve the taxpayer to spend nearly £50,000 for an extended period to make sure he’s further detained and punished.”