Read about the legal challenges that have been brought against the IPP sentence,
and the landmark legal events that eventually led to its abolition.
THE ORIGINAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 2003 – SECTION 225: LIFE SENTENCE OR IMPRISONMENT FOR PUBLIC PROTECTION FOR SERIOUS OFFENCES
The introduction of IPP sentences – the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
The CJA 2003 Act introduced the IPP sentence. It was fuelled by a number of high profile cases of people who had been released from prison and gone on to commit a serious crime. It was designed to deal with ‘dangerous’ individuals. The IPP sentence was applicable to 153 specified offences, when it was deemed that the defendant posed a serious risk of harm in future. The Act prohibited judicial discretion in whether to apply an IPP sentence – it had to be applied to everyone who fitted the criteria.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND IMMIGRATION ACT 2008 – CHAPTER 4, SECTION 13: SENTENCES OF IMPRISONMENT FOR PUBLIC PROTECTION
The reform of IPP sentences – the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
This Act made three important changes to the IPP sentence. It reduced the number of offences to which it could be applied; it restricted its application to crimes which would otherwise attract a determinate sentence of four years or more; and it allowed greater judicial discretion in its application. It did not apply retrospectively to those already serving an IPP sentence.
CASE OF JOHNSON, R (ON THE APPLICATION OF) V. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT & ANOR – FULL COURT JUDGEMENT
The challenge to the IPP sentence - Johnson v the Secretary of State for the Home Department. England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division), 2007.
This case established the right of people serving an IPP sentence to apply for compensation if they had missed their earliest possible release date due to administrative or other delays.
The demise of the IPP sentence - James, Wells and Lee vs UK. European Court of Human Rights, 2009.
This case made the important distinction between ‘indefinite’ and ‘arbitrary’ detention. It established that when people are detained solely for reasons of public protection, they must be given reasonable and timely access to rehabilitative opportunities.
James, Wells and Lee were three people given an IPP sentence in 2005, with tariffs of two years, 12 months and nine months respectively. When their tariffs expired, they had had no opportunity to access rehabilitative programmes deemed necessary to reduce their risk. The court agreed that this violated Article 5.1 of the Human Rights Act (the right to liberty and security), brought about by the UK Government’s failure to adequate plan for and provide rehabilitation opportunities when the sentence was introduced. The court ruled that the detention of James, Wells and Lee was unlawful, until such time that they were offered rehabilitative opportunities.
It is of note that the three applicants had previously brought their case before the House of Lords (the highest appeal court at the time), who had dismissed it on the basis that the IPP sentence did not render prisoners “confined to penal oblivion”. The ECHR disagreed, and many prisoners serving IPP sentences today describe their experiences very much in terms of oblivion and hopelessness, feeling they are passed over in favour of prisoners who have a definite release date.
RESPONDING TO HUMAN RIGHTS JUDGEMENTS: REPORT TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO HUMAN RIGHTS JUDGEMENTS 2012-13.
Read the Government’s response to the James, Wells and Lee case here (page 23).
SECTION 123 OF THE LASPO ACT – ABOLITION OF CERTAIN SENTENCES FOR DANGEROUS OFFENDERS
The abolition of the IPP sentence – Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, 2012.
The LASPO act abolished the IPP sentence on the 3rd of December 2012. It was agreed to be unjust and unworkable. However, it was not abolished retrospectively, meaning that it did not remove the IPP sentence from those who were already serving it. This remains the case today.
Below are a record of cases heard regarding other people serving an IPP sentence. Many build on the important developments above. We believe that they all deserve to be recognised.
WELLS & WALKER V. PAROLE BOARD AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR JUSTICE. ENGLAND AND WALES HIGH COURT, QUEENS BENCH DIVISION, 2007.
This case first ruled that indefinite detention after tariff expiry was arbitrary, and therefore unlawful, if reasonable access to rehabilitation was not provided. This was expanded upon in the key case of James, Well and Lee (above).
HANEY, KAIYAM, MASSEY, AND ROBINSON VS SECRETARY OF STATE FOR JUSTICE. UK SUPREME COURT, 2014.
This case built on the issues raised by James, Well and Lee. The four applicants were serving an automatic life sentence (the predecessor of the IPP sentence) and three IPP sentences with tariffs of seven years, two years and six months respectively. The four applicants maintained that their prospects of release were being hampered by lack of access tp rehabilitative opportunities, including suitable programmes, and access to open prisons. The court agreed that the state had a duty to provide such opportunities, again arising from Article 5 of the Human Rights Act.