Ministry of Justice
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Reforms bring hope to rehabilitated people still serving abolished indefinite sentences

Thousands of rehabilitated ex-prisoners serving long-since abolished indefinite sentences will become eligible to have their licence period terminated earlier as part of new reforms.

  • more than 1,800 people could see unjust, long-served sentences end by March 2025
  • reduces numbers still on licence despite being rehabilitated, long after the end of their original sentence
  • only those living safely in the community are eligible

Offenders released from prison on licence while serving Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences currently have to wait a minimum of 10 years before they can have their licence reviewed by the Parole Board.

The new changes will mean IPP offenders serving their sentence in the community are referred for review 3 years after their first release.

IPP sentences were introduced in 2005, designed to prevent offenders who were considered dangerous from being released even though the offence did not merit a life sentence. There is broad consensus against the IPP sentence and the policy was scrapped in 2012 due to the inconsistent and more frequent application of these sentences than was intended.

If a licence is not terminated at the three-year mark by the Parole Board, it will automatically terminate after a further two years if the offender is not recalled to prison in that time. This is the first time these offenders will have a defined ‘end date’ to their sentence.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:  

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.

The changes will be applied retrospectively, meaning licences will immediately end for around 1,800 rehabilitated offenders once the legislation comes into force. Offenders who have been recalled to prison or taken into secure hospitals will not be eligible.

The government has amended its Victims and Prisoners Bill to make these changes which will accelerate the process of reducing the number of people bound by IPP sentences.

Around 800 will become newly eligible for Parole Board consideration by March 2025. The new legislation will also introduce a presumption that the Parole Board will terminate the licence unless it is still required to protect the public to give offenders the best opportunity to move on from their sentence.

Since IPP sentences were scrapped in 2012, the number of unreleased IPP prisoners has been reduced by three-quarters and those in custody are being supported to progress towards release through the government’s refreshed IPP Action Plan.

The legislation is expected to come into force 2 months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.


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