Re-sentence 3,000 prisoners caught in jail 'trap' inadvertently established by David Blunkett, MPs advised
Lord Thomas of Cymgiedd, a former Lord Chief Justice, made the suggestion to a hearing of the Justice Committee – as Lord Blunkett again admitted mistakes had been made with the introduction of the policy, which has led thousands of prisoners to still be in jail almost a decade after the sentences were scrapped.
Lord Blunkett, a former Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP, said that extra safeguards should have been included with the introduction of indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPPs) when he was Home Secretary.
IPPs were introduced by the Labour government in 2005 and were expected to be used for the most serious cases, like sexual offences. However, they were used more widely for offences where there was deemed to be a risk to the general public, such as arson.
Offenders handed the sentence must apply to the Parole Board once they have completed their term before they can be released. If they fail to satisfy the parole board, they remain in custody.
Despite the coalition government abolishing IPPs in 2012, the change was not made retrospectively, and there remain 3,000 people in prison serving such a sentence – 1,300 of them because of recalls.
Lord Blunkett said before the IPPs became law, Treasury funding should have been guaranteed for therapy and rehabilitation programmes to help those jailed more easily get to a point where they could be eligible for recall. He said the legislation should have also included “a very substantial determinate sentence” as an option for judges before an IPP could be applied.
He said he particularly regretted the inclusion of a youth provision for IPPs, citing the case of one 17-year-old who was sentenced and remains in jail 17 years later.
“The longer people are in, the more hopeless they become and the more difficult they become to rehabilitate,” he said.
He later added: “We didn’t spend enough time reflecting on what we were doing. The truth is we didn’t see down the line and see what the impact would be on those who fell into this trap.”
The veteran Yorkshire politician has previously admitted to have “got it wrong” on the issue during a House of Lords debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last month.
Lord Thomas said problems with IPPs after their introduction soon became apparent when he visited Leeds prison in 2006.
“The impact on the prison ‘lifer’ population was enormous,” he said.
“It became apparent there weren’t the places in the lifer prisons.”
Lord Thomas said in his view those prisoners still on IPPs should be re-sentenced.
He said it would not be right to free all those affected as there may be some “dangerous people” among their number who may pose an ongoing risk to the public.
He added: “The majority are nowhere near that ballpark. Justice does require we look at them.
“We take into account the protection of the public but also the injustice that has been done to them, particularly as from some of their cases I saw that imprisonment has made them worse and less susceptible to release than if they had been given determinate sentences.”
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.