How to apply to end an IPP sentence.
Today we are launching our guide on how to make an application to end an IPP sentence. We have one simple aim – we want everyone to know how to end their sentence. This post outlines what the process is, who can apply, what we know about success, and what you can do to help.
Many people serving an IPP feel hopeless, on a seemingly unending life sentence, even after release from prison. Their families share this sense of hopelessness. Loss of hope makes people give up, shut down, and lose any sense of control over their future. As the IPP sentence ages, it has become clear that hopelessness does not end at the prison gate. People have spoken powerfully of the impact of life on an unending licence, with the ever-present threat of recall to prison. People tell us that life in such limbo, is no life at all.
At present, the only route to ending an IPP sentence is to apply to have the IPP licence reduced or removed. We want everybody to know two important facts:
1. It is possible to remove the requirement to attend Probation supervision, five years after
your last release from prison.
2. It is possible to remove your IPP licence, ten years after your first release from prison.
This is the same as ending your IPP sentence altogether.
We are going to produce a separate guide on how to apply to get the supervision requirement lifted. Here, we talk about getting the IPP licence removed altogether – ending the sentence.
It is hard to believe that an IPP sentence can end, as until recently it was not common knowledge, even among criminal justice staff. But the possibility has always existed in law, under Section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Click here if you want to read the legislation for yourself.
One of our principles is not to mislead people with false hope. Ending a sentence is not automatic. It has criteria, requires approval by the Parole Board, and there are many obstacles to success. We are publishing guidance now because we believe everybody has a right to know about the process.
How does an IPP sentence end?
1) Inform your probation officer that you are making an application. You do not have to do this, but they will be told anyway, and it may help your case if you discuss it with them, and they support you.
2) Apply to the Parole Board directly. You can do this yourself: you do not need Probation to do it for you (although you can ask them to if you prefer).
3) The Parole Board will hold a paper or oral hearing, just like they do when they decide whether to release somebody from prison. They will either:
a) Lift your licence (end your sentence).
b) Change your licence conditions.
c) Refuse your application.
4) If your application is refused, you can re-apply every 12 months.
Who can apply to end their IPP sentence?
The law states that people become eligible for having their IPP sentence ended ten years after they are FIRST released from prison. The clock does not ‘reset’ if you are recalled. You are eligible ten years from the date you were FIRST released. That means that people who have been recalled during the ten-year period, and even people IN prison on recall at the ten-year point are eligible.
What are the chances of successfully getting my IPP licence ended?
People in prison are unlikely to be successful if they apply. People who have been recalled and re-released may be successful, but it will depend on individual circumstances. People who have been in the community for ten years without being recalled are the most likely to be successful.
Statistics on success are not routinely published, and we encourage the Parole Board to publish quarterly figures as soon as possible. Here is what we know at the moment:
· By April 2022, 45 people had applied and 26 were successful (58%).
· Of the 19 people who applied but did not get their licence ended, some had their
licence conditions reduced. But we do not know how many, or what those changes
· By September 2022, 850 people serving an IPP sentence will be eligible to apply,
predicted to rise to 2,829 by September 2026.
The Parole Board’s guidance for its members (read it here) gives an indication of what factors are taken into account when they make a decision. There is more detail in our guide, but basic factors include:
· How your risk factors have been addressed.
· What your life is like now, and since you were released.
· What your compliance with your licence has been like.
We want people to know that they have a chance to get their licence removed. But the test for removal is ‘whether it is necessary for the protection of the public that the licence should remain in force.’ Proving this is likely to be difficult, as it is in prison.
Is this process likely to change?
Our guidance is in line with the system as it is now. An amendment has been inserted into the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill which would remove the need for people to apply to have their IPP sentence ended. Instead, they would automatically be referred for a review once they become eligible, and again every 12 months thereafter. The Bill has not yet cleared the final stages to become law, and we are not sure when it will do so. We want people to know what they can do now, and we will update the guidance if anything changes.
What can you do to help?
UNGRIPP has one aim: to let as many people as possible know about this process. You can help us to do that by:
· Letting us know if this guidance is helpful, and how we could improve it.
· Passing it on to anybody else you know who is serving an IPP sentence.
· If you have a good relationship with someone at a prison or probation office, ask them
to circulate the guidance to people serving an IPP sentence, and the staff that manage
them (but only if you feel safe to ask).
If you are a criminal justice professional:
· Familiarise yourself with the process, and let people you work with know about it.
· Pass on the guidance to other staff, so that they can familiarise themselves with the
· If you are working with people still serving an IPP sentence in prison, let them know that
this option exists, and acknowledge it in their release plans and goal setting.
Ten years is a long time. Can’t we do more?
Yes. We know that the remote possibility of ending an IPP licence is very cold comfort. Our guidance is intended to help people navigate the system as it stands today. But the system is not good enough. A ten-year licence period followed by only conditional removal is vastly disproportionate to the offences of most people serving an IPP sentence. People that speak to us are clear: punishment should be fair and fixed.
We will be asking people to step up political pressure after the Justice Select Committee reports. We know that such action takes energy and can be very emotional, so we will be asking everybody who cares about changing the sentence to offer support.
In the meantime, people can exert pressure to make licence removal conditions more favourable by voicing their support for reducing the waiting period to five years post-release. We favour an even shorter period, but we think this demand has more chance of success.
The best way you can do this is to keep writing to your MP. Let them know that you support IPP sentences ending, and a reduction to five years. You find out how to write to your MP, and our template letter, by clicking here.
Numbers matter, so encourage anyone else who is concerned to write to their MP too. Sometimes it takes only four or five letters on the same matter to trigger an MP to raise something in parliament. Constituents of the areas that the above ministers serve can also write to them directly as their local MP:
Dominic Raab - Esher and Walton.
Kit Malthouse - North West Hampshire. https://members.parliament.uk/member/4495/contact
Victoria Atkins - Louth and Horncastle. https://members.parliament.uk/member/4399/contact
As ever, we are grateful to all those who are united in the push for change to the IPP sentence. Please help us let people know about how they can apply to end their individual sentence, and keep pushing to end the sentence for everybody.
Read the full guide at www.ungripp.com/ending-your-ipp