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28 November 2023

PRT comment: IPP reforms announced

Reacting to the announcement that the government will introduce amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill to reform the IPP licence, Pia Sinha, chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This significant change to the IPP licence would create an important off ramp for thousands of people serving an IPP sentence in the community. When enacted, it should enable 1,800 people who are already five years post release to immediately have their licence terminated. For those who are released, it should also restore some sense of fairness by creating a realistic prospect that the sentence can be brought to a definitive end.

“However, in order bring to an end the recall merry-go-round which our own research identified, this welcome change will need to be backed by improved support in the community to enable people on IPPs to make a success of their resettlement. The large majority of IPP recalls occur within the first two years of release. Better mental health support and improvements in how people on IPPs are supervised and managed in the community will be crucial.

“Furthermore, this change will do little for the 1,200 people in prison who have never been released, and the further 1,600 individuals recalled back to custody. It is disappointing that the government has not chosen to adopt sensible proposals from the cross-party justice committee for the resentencing of people on IPPs. It is an omission we will seek to persuade parliamentarians to address in the remaining stages of the Victims and Prisoners bill.”

Further resources

Our work on the IPP sentence

PRT’s research report, No Life, No Freedom, No Future, examines the experience of people serving IPPs who had been recalled to custody. It called for a number of reforms to the IPP licence including a reduction in the qualifying period for a licence review and to automate the licence review process.

PRT supported amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to reduce the qualifying period for a licence review and automate the licence review process.

At the time, the government rejected our arguments to reduce the qualifying period but bought forward its own amendment to automate the licence review.

Reforms to the IPP licence were also recommended by the Justice Committee in its inquiry on the IPP sentence. The committee found that the IPP sentence was “irredeemably flawed” after holding a year-long inquiry that concluded in September 2022.

The committee’s main recommendation from the inquiry — that everyone subject to an IPP should be resentenced — has not been taken forward by the government.

PRT provided written and oral evidence to the committee’s inquiry.

Read more about our work on the IPP sentence