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3 Dec 2022

Marking 10 years since the IPP sentence was abolished

Today (Saturday 3 December) marks 10 years since the abolition of the sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).

Yet almost 3,000 people who were given IPP sentences are still in prison today. About half have never been released; the rest have been recalled, mostly for administrative breaches. A cycle of recall and re-release which does nothing to help people sentenced to IPPs, victims or the public.

When the IPP sentence was introduced in 2005, the Howard League warned that it created a bureaucratic nightmare that would haunt successive governments. Six Prime Ministers later, the injustice endures.

Official figures show that, at the end of September 2022, there were 1,437 people in prison on IPP sentences who had never been released, including some who had been inside for more than 10 years beyond their tariff period. A further 1,453 were back in prison after being recalled.

Ninety-seven per cent of IPP prisoners who have never been released are beyond their tariff period.

In the last 12 months, the Howard League has:

  • contributed evidence to a Justice Committee inquiry on IPP sentences, which found them to be irredeemably flawed and called for all people who are subject to them to be resentenced
  • supported two amendments on IPP sentences, which were resisted by the government, as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill went through Parliament
  • held fringe events at party conferences to highlight the scandal of IPP sentences
  • supported grassroots organisations such as UNGRIPP and IPP Committee in Action, working with them to demand change.

This is a problem that only Parliament can fix. It is now time for the government to finally look at the evidence and act decisively to begin alleviating the suffering that has been inflicted on IPP prisoners and their families.

Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The fact that, ten years on, thousands of people remain in prison on IPP sentences – with no sense of if and when they will ever be released – is a shameful indictment on our criminal justice system and civilised society.

“These sentences continue to inflict undue misery and suffering on these prisoners and their families.

“People are trapped in the prison system, far longer than ever anticipated by their sentencers, and at extreme cost to their wellbeing and mental health. Placated by false hopes and empty promises from successive governments, they have been failed consistently.

“Through its recent inquiry and report, the Justice Committee has charted a route that would restore hope and at least begin to alleviate the misery experienced by thousands of families. Ministers should follow its lead.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The Howard League’s written evidence to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into IPP sentences can be read online.
  3. The Howard League supported two amendments on IPP sentences as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill went through Parliament. They would have reduced the qualifying period before a licence could be terminated and introduced an additional executive power for re-release. The government resisted even these small, practical changes, as Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League, explained in a blogpost published in January.
  4. Findings of a survey of prison governors about the impact of IPP sentences were published in a Howard League briefing, The never-ending story: Indeterminate sentencing and the prison regime, which can be downloaded from the charity’s website.
  5. Statistics for the IPP prisoner population and tariff lengths can be viewed in the ‘Prison population: 30 September 2022’ spreadsheet, published by the Ministry of Justice as part of its Offender Management Statistics quarterly bulletin.
  6. Further information about the Justice Committee inquiry into IPP sentences can be found online.


Noor Khan
Press and Public Affairs Officer
Mobile: +44 (0)20 7241 7873

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