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IPP Licence Reviews - Update on Probation Responses

Section 38 of the new PCSC Act states that people serving an IPP sentence must be automatically referred for a review of their licence 10 years after their first release from prison, and once a year thereafter. The Parole Board may decide to a) leave the licence in place, b) end the licence (which ends the sentence) or c) vary the licence conditions.


On the 10th of June, we wrote to the 12 Regional Probation Directors to ask them how they intended to implement the change to the IPP sentence within the PCSC Act 2022. We asked all the Probation leads specific questions about implementation in their region. We also asked them for a strong public commitment to implementing the Act in a way that minimises the harms of the IPP sentence, even if they had not yet finalised their procedures.


Only one Probation region has replied to us - the Northwest. The lack of response from the other 11 Probation regions is extremely disappointing. The Act came into force on the 28th of June, but the lack of engagement leaves families in the dark about what the changes mean for their loved ones. It is also disappointing that, despite the change in law, relevant policy documents have not been publicly updated.


There is clear evidence that sentence-related anxiety, uncertainty and inconsistency cause psychological harm to people affected by the IPP sentence. We urge Probation to take these harms seriously, and make minimising those harms a priority. Families deserve clear and swift information, respectful engagement, and to have their questions and concerns listened to. As long as the Government insists on continuing to administer an abolished sentence, it must meet the highest standards of public accountability to those still suffering from IPP’s devastating effects. We would like to see a much higher standard of engagement with families.


Below, we summarise the Northwest Probation Region’s answers to our questions, and we thank them for their response. We invite the other 11 Probation regions to demonstrate similar commitment to engaging with families, and would welcome further clarity on the points not answered by the Northwest.


The Parole Board has published specific guidance on their role in implementing the new Act, which you can read here. We will produce a simplified summary of the whole process once the different parts of the criminal justice system have clarified their roles.





Our questions, and a summary of the answers from Northwest Probation.



Has your region developed a strategy to support the proper implementation of Section 138 of the PCSC Act 2022? If so, what does it contain, and have you made it publicly available?


Northwest Probation state that the current HMPPS policy framework setting out how people eligible for parole are managed on licence (which you can read here ), will be updated to reflect the law change. They also say that guidance documents for staff will be updated and a leaflet will be given to people serving the IPP sentence, explaining how the Act will be implemented.


At the time of writing, the policy framework has not been updated, despite the Act having passed into law.



Can you outline exactly what the role of your Probation region will be in the licence review process, including the steps that your staff will undertake at each point in the process?


Northwest Probation state that Probation Officers receive monthly requests to complete Licence Termination Reports for people eligible for a licence review, and their line manager is copied into the request.


It was not clear from the Northwest’s response who initiates the requests. However, UNGRIPP have been told that the Public Protection Casework Section of the Ministry of Justice (known as PPCS) will send requests to Probation two months before a person becomes eligible for a licence review, and request a report within 28 calendar days.



Have you informed all those serving an IPP sentence on licence about the requirements under the new Act?


Northwest Probation state that a leaflet will be given to people serving the IPP sentence, explaining how the new Act will be implemented.



How are you ensuring that all those serving an IPP sentence on licence have received the information and understand its implications for them?


This question was not answered.



Have you made similar information available for the families of those serving an IPP sentence on licence?


Northwest Probation state that the current guidance document for families of people serving indeterminate sentences (which you can read here) will be updated.


At the time of writing, the guidance for families has not been updated. The guidance itself is not easy to navigate and not specific to IPP. UNGRIPP encourages Probation not to underestimate the degree of mistrust, fear, anger and pain felt by families, and to do all it can to communicate in a way that minimises the burdens of the sentence. At a minimum, families deserve guidance tailored to the unique circumstances of the IPP sentence.



What have you done to ensure that staff understand the new Act, and their role/responsibilities in its implementation?


Northwest Probation state that staff guidance will be updated.


People who speak to UNGRIPP tell us that they frequently experience mistakes, delays and misunderstandings from Probation staff (especially those in prison) who have poor knowledge of how the IPP sentence works. We therefore encourage an update in guidance that is more than cosmetic for the new Act, and comprehensively addresses staff knowledge gaps. It is deeply wrong that people affected by IPP should have to educate staff on how to better administer their suffering.



What is your region doing to work proactively with the PPCS, to ensure that the right people are referred at the right time?


This question was not answered.



What is your region doing to work proactively with the Prison Service, to ensure a smooth referral process for eligible people serving the IPP sentence in prison?


This question was not answered.



How are you monitoring adherence to the new Act within your region’s IPP caseload? For example, will you be monitoring the percentage of eligible people who were referred by the 10-year point?


Northwest Probation state that the completion of IPP licence termination reports will be tracked locally and nationally, with ‘delays addressed’. There will be ‘ongoing contact’ with Probation Officers to ‘support understanding and compliance’ with the requirement to complete reports.


It is not clear whether data on level of compliance and % of timely completions will be published. UNGRIPP think that it should be.



What challenges do you anticipate in implementing the new Act, and how are you planning to meet them?


This question was not answered.



What specific plans do you have for ensuring that those serving the IPP sentence on licence with protected characteristics receive fair and equal treatment?


This question was not answered.



How are you planning to communicate your progress in implementing the new Act to people serving the IPP sentence, their families, and the public?


This question was not answered.



The Northwest’s response indicates to us that they are aware of their legal responsibilities under the new Act and are taking steps to implement it appropriately. The lack of response to some of our questions indicates that there is work to be done on responding to what families need. Minimising the bureaucratic harm of the IPP sentence must be a priority. The poor response rate makes it clear that Probation underestimate the necessity for public accountability to people affected by the IPP sentence. We urge the other 11 Probation regions to respond with their plans, and we encourage all regions to prioritise communication with families about the new processes.


Section 38 of the PCSC Act falls extremely short of the changes needed to the IPP sentence. It is the least the Government could possibly have done (short of nothing at all), and it is not good enough. But for the people who have a chance to end their IPP sentence through their right to a licence review, we want to see as much done as possible to give them that chance. We know there are individual Probation Officers who are very unhappy with the IPP sentence. We urge them to use the change in law to maximum effect, and to urge their seniors to do the same. A united response from everybody concerned about IPP is vital for righting the injustice of this abolished and inhumane sentence.



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