Chalk announces limited IPP reform
Released prisoners will have their licences ended sooner
The justice secretary Alex Chalk has announced a limited reform to a punishment that he regards as a stain on the criminal justice system of England and Wales — the sentence of imprisonment for public protection, or IPP for short. I explained how these sentences worked in an earlier piece.
Offenders who are still serving IPP sentences in custody — more than a decade after the courts were required to stop imposing them — will not be directly affected by today’s announcement. The reforms apply only to those who have already been released on licence.1
At present, an ex-prisoner cannot apply to have a licence rescinded until 10 years after release. If release conditions are breached at any time while the offender is on licence — by not complying with probation requirements, for example — the offender may be recalled to custody.
After taking evidence from the Parole Board, MPs on the Commons justice committee recommended last year that the 10-year period should be halved. That recommendation was was rejected in February by Dominic Raab, the then justice secretary.
But, as I reported in July, Chalk said he was considering it. He has now gone a little further.
Amendments he is tabling to the government’s victims and prisoners bill will ensure that former prisoners have their licences reviewed just three years after release. If the ex-prisoner’s licence is not ended by the Parole Board at the three-year mark, it will automatically terminate two years later — provided the offender has not been recalled to prison in the meantime.
The changes will be applied retrospectively, meaning that around 1,800 offenders who have been on licence for five years or more and not been recalled will have their licences terminated once the legislation comes into force next year. During the early part of 2025, another 800 or so will become eligible for consideration by the Parole Board.
We are taking decisive action to curtail IPP licence periods to give rehabilitated people the opportunity to move on with their lives, while continuing to make sure the public are protected from the most serious offenders.
This is a major step towards wiping away the stain of IPP sentences from our justice system, without compromising public protection.
A Lawyer Writes is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It’s possible that those who have been released on licence and subsequently recalled may benefit. That depends on the wording of the amendment, which has not yet been published.