Commenting on the ruling by the European Court on the indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP), Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“This judgement should prompt the new Secretary of State to institute a review of the cases of over 3,500 people held beyond their indeterminate sentence tariff dates, use his discretion under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) to change the release test and eradicate a stain on our justice system.
“It is shaming to have so many people locked up in our prisons, not for what they have done but for what they might do in the future. Many of these prisoners are condemned to years of uncertainty during which time they must somehow prove, from the confines of a bleak overcrowded jail, that they no longer present a risk to the public. The means to do this, attendance at scarce and not always reliable offending behaviour programmes, is barred to people with a mental illness, learning disability, many on medication and anyone with a low IQ score, trapping these most vulnerable people in a maze with no exit.
“Two approaches to our advice and information team help to illustrate this point. One concerned a person who received an IPP with a 71 day tariff and is now in his 5th year of imprisonment. The second involved someone with a brain injury, who was ineligible for offending behaviour courses and deemed, as a result, to be unable to make progress towards release.
"To put matters right, more trust could be placed in prison governors and staff, probation and the Parole Board to determine the risk to the public presented by a few dangerous people rather than relying on the current obstacle race facing so many prisoners and their families.
“The IPP has attracted near universal criticism from judges, Parole Board members, the prisons inspectorate, the prison governors’ association, staff and prisoners and families alike. Now government has abolished the Kafkaesque indeterminate sentence for public protection, it’s time to return to a sensible system of fairness, proportionality and just deserts.”