This is a House of Commons Committee Special Report.
Date Published: 9 February 2023
The Justice Committee published its Third Report of Session 2022–23, IPP sentences (HC 266), on 28 September 2022. The Government’s Response and a covering letter were received on 1 February 2023 and the Parole Board Response was received on 16 November 2022; they are each appended to this report.
I would like to thank you and the Justice Select Committee (JSC) for your work in conducting a review of the continued existence of Imprisonment for Public Protections (IPP) sentences.
The inquiry conducted by the Committee constituted a thorough assessment of the issues surrounding the IPP sentence and the published report contains considered recommendations for change. This marks an opportunity to take stock and identify areas for improvement which will make a genuine difference to the way that IPP offenders are rehabilitated and supported through to safe release where appropriate.
I attach a copy of the Government response to the report. The IPP Action Plan ensures that appropriate, individualised support is in place for every IPP offender, whether in custody or in the community. The Government had previously committed to updating and refreshing the plan once the recommendations from the JSC had been published.
HMPPS has already begun work to review the current action plan, specifically focusing on improved, clear performance measures, achievable deadlines and a robust overarching governance structure. I have no doubt that the refreshed Action Plan, when finalised, will be a strong driver to build on past achievements and further provide the best possible opportunities for those serving an IPP sentence to progress towards a safe and sustainable release.
The primary recommendation in the report relates to the resentencing of all remaining IPP offenders who have not yet had their licence terminated. Retrospective resentencing of IPP offenders could lead to the immediate release of many offenders who have been assessed as unsafe for release by the Parole Board, many with no period of supervision in the community.
The Government’s long-held view is that this would give rise to an unacceptable risk to public protection and that the IPP Action Plan, suitably updated, remains the best option by which these offenders can progress towards safe release. As such, the Government has no plans to conduct a resentencing exercise.
As you will know, IPP offenders on licence in the community are eligible to have their licence terminated by the Parole Board once 10 years has elapsed since they were first released. The report also recommended that the point of eligibility be brought forward to five years following first release.
Following this Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, the Secretary of State is now required to automatically refer IPP offenders where 10 years has elapsed since their first release to the Parole Board and to keep doing so every subsequent year where the Parole Board opted to keep the licence in place. This will give eligible offenders every opportunity to have their licence terminated and enable the IPP sentence as a whole to be brought to an end in more cases.
The licence period following custody is an important tool in both ensuring the public remain protected from the risk posed by offenders and to ensure that offenders are properly supported to manage their risks while reintegrating into the community. Some licences contain conditions to prohibit offenders from making contact with their victims or entering a geographical area where their victims live and work. IPP offenders are also able to have the supervisory element of their licence suspended after 5 years of continuous good behaviour in the community and can live in the community under licence without onerous conditions.
Whilst we will not seek to reduce the eligibility period for licence termination from 10 years to five years, we will review the policy and practice for suspending the supervision requirements of the IPP licence, with a view to ensuring that in appropriate cases IPP offenders are considered for referral to the Parole Board.
Following the Committee’s assertion that offenders serving an IPP sentence on licence in the community are being recalled unnecessarily, we have requested that the Chief Inspector of Probation carry out an independent thematic inspection on the proportionality of recall. We commit to ensuring recall culture and practices are regularly evaluated and hope that this review will corroborate the findings of the most recent inspection of recall, published on 10 November 2020, that recall was being used appropriately and in order to protect the public. Once our request for an inspection has been confirmed and agreed, we will share the Terms of Reference for the inspection with the Committee.
Thank you once again for your consideration of these important issues.
RT HON DOMINIC RAAB MP
We recommend the MoJ and HMPPS develop a new action plan, which should include clear performance measures for each of its workstreams. The new action plan should also, against each workstream, include an accountable owner for the workstream, and a timeframe for completion of each workstream activity so that there can be greater accountability and scrutiny. A new version of the IPP Action Plan should be published by the end of Q1 2023, with a report on the operation of the plan and any revisions to it published annually thereafter. (Paragraph 39)
Responsible Organisations: Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)
Reasoning: We welcome this recommendation, which aligns with our declared intention to review the IPP Action Plan following the publication of the Committee’s report. We want to increase the support offered to IPP offenders to progress both in prisons and on licence in the community. The MoJ and HMPPS have commenced work on this review and will provide full details of the refreshed action plan and associated governance within the timeframe set out by the Committee.
In identifying solutions to the IPP problem, the MoJ, HMPPS and Parole Board must acknowledge the psychological harm caused by the IPP sentence, and the challenges this presents regarding progression. The MoJ and HMPPS should also set out how they intend to improve access to mental health support for IPP prisoners, including transfers to secure hospitals and therapeutic settings. (Paragraph 58)
Responsible Organisations: NHS, MoJ, HMPPS
Response: Partially accept
Reasoning: We acknowledge that uncertainty over a release date can be unsettling which is why we are committed to ensuring appropriate support is provided, when needed. The Government also recognises that many IPP cases are complex and challenging.
Access to Mental Health support
HMPPS is working with partners to improve mental health support for all prisoners, including those serving IPP sentences and is already responding, separately, to a number of reports into mental health, including the Committee’s Report on Mental Health in Prisons published in September 2021 and associated Action Plan (January 2022). To manage the commitments and activities in the reports, a Mental Health Working Group has been formed, involving DHSC, MoJ, HMPPS, Home Office, NPCC, and the Welsh Government. The Group is overseeing a consolidated Mental Health action plan, which brings together all the published commitments and recommendations.
HMPPS continues its partnership with Samaritans who train prisoner Listeners to provide emotional support to their fellow prisoners in emotional distress. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and related regime restrictions, in 2021 there were around 1,300 trained Listeners who responded to 25,000 calls for help and spent 14,000 hours supporting other people in prison. HMPPS has recently renewed the grant to Samaritans and are working with them to strengthen and expand the Listener scheme. The Samaritans helpline is freely available, and last year the service received 410,000 calls from prisoners.
This Government is committed to ensuring that offenders within the criminal justice system can access appropriate and timely support to meet their mental health needs.
The Government’s draft Mental Health Bill was published on 27 June 2022 and includes key justice-led reforms, including the introduction of a new 28-day statutory time limit for transfers from prison to hospital. This will speed up access to specialist inpatient care and treatment for those experiencing acute mental health needs who meet the criteria for detention under the Mental Health Act.
The MoJ, HMPPS and the Parole Board should set out what support is available to those prisoners who are remitted back to prison after a period of time spent under section in a secure hospital, and how they are supported to progress in their sentence. (Paragraph 59)
Responsible Organisations: NHS, HMPPS
Reasoning: The Government recognises that the remittance back to prison, following a period in a secure hospital, can be difficult for the prisoner, and we have processes in place to support the progression of those individuals through their sentence.
HMPPS and MoJ are working with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and National Health Service England (NHSE) to consider how the operational delivery of the return (remission) of patients (back) to prison can be improved. This work will consider learning from the Long-Term High Security Estate (LTHSE), which produced a Hospital Remission Strategy in November 2021, to ensure that remittances are smooth and accompanied by a bespoke approach to ongoing sentence management.
The LTHSE Strategy takes a bespoke approach for each individual which considers their health, risk management, quality of life and, importantly, sentence progression needs. As well as identifying the most appropriate location which maximises their protective factors and minimises exposure to trigger to risk and a deterioration of health, HMPPS also consider the most appropriate progression pathway for each individual and agree this with all disciplines involved. The patient is remitted direct into the prison or service which best meets their needs, rather than via a local or reception prison. For some, this might be access to a specialist treatment service, and for others it might be that they require a specialist stabilisation service. The aim for each is to get them on the pathway most appropriate for them as swiftly as possible, in an appropriate location. This process involves collaborative pathway planning between the hospital setting and the LTHSE from the earliest possible point pre-remission and involves HMPPS Forensic Psychologists as well as mental health specialists.
The MoJ and HMPPS must ensure that there are enough places on courses available to all those who need them. As part of the IPP action plan, the MoJ and HMPPS should set out what work is being done to expand provision of courses for IPP prisoners, reduce waiting lists, and ensure that IPP prisoners are being held in appropriate category prisons. (Paragraph 71)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS
Response: Partially accept
Reasoning: We would first like to clarify a misunderstanding in the report index, which includes a reference as a header ‘HMPPS Psychology Service’ with 3 subheadings: Offender Behaviour Programmes (OBP) and interventions; availability and access to courses; and Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) pathway. For the sake of accuracy, HMPPS Psychology Services is a delivery group within HMPPS. It is not responsible for OBPs or OPD.
With regard to volumes, the data used on the number of Accredited Programme places available, in paragraph 66, identifies a drop in delivery from 2015/16. However, this change relates to the responsibility (and data recording) for drug related Accredited Programme delivery being transferred to the Health Service in 2015/16 and not to a drop in provision.
We accept that sufficient places on programmes should be provided for eligible and suitable IPP prisoners, where their sentence plans have identified a particular programme as one a prisoner needs to complete to reduce their risk.
Not all prisons provide accredited programmes; however, all IPP prisoners are reviewed for their progression needs, including programme suitability. Where an appropriate programme is identified, they will either be transferred to the relevant prison or, in some cases (for example the Healthy Sex Programme), the provision can be brought to them.
Places on accredited programmes and other interventions were affected by the pandemic due to regime restrictions. The data considered in paragraph 69 is during the Covid pandemic when waiting lists had increased given the pause and reduced delivery volumes. Delivery has increased in 2022/23 and HMPPS continues to prioritise IPP prisoners for programme spaces.
HMPPS do, however, recognise that some of those serving IPP sentences have individualised, and bespoke needs and we are working to meet these needs rather than to increase accredited programme spaces where this is not identified as the core barrier to progression.
The significant majority of those serving IPP sentences in custody have completed at least one accredited programme to address their risk. No one programme can address all the needs of any or every IPP prisoner. As identified in wider evidence, many IPP prisoners have issues related to high levels of psychological challenge, including neurodivergence, and complex childhood trauma that can present a barrier to engagement and learning in a group context. Hence, as HMPPS evidence stated, we are working with individual IPP prisoners to identify the most appropriate pathway and to provide bespoke sentence planning. This is an area of growth which will form part of the IPP Action Plan review. It is also important to note that the Parole Board’s assessment of a prisoner’s suitability for release is based upon areas of risk, rather than whether or not specific accredited programmes have been completed.
We will look further into prisoner location as part of the IPP Action Plan activity, however some HMPPS Prison Groups have examined data on IPP prisoner location and found that the vast majority of cases are in prisons appropriate to their current needs. What might appear in data as an unsuitable prison does not necessarily indicate that it is.
The Government should publish the commissioned report from Professor Paul Moran into the Offender Personality Disorder pathway by December 2022. In addition, the MoJ and HMPPS should set out what work is being done to ensure that all programmes delivered and relied upon by HMPPS and the Parole Board deliver adequate outcomes for prisoners; and, where they do not, they should set out the process for reviewing and delivering of those programmes. (Paragraph 81)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS, MoJ
Response: Partially Accept
Reasoning: Whilst we do not agree with the report’s suggestion that the accreditation approach is ineffective, we do agree that there should be transparency in relation to the evaluation of our specialist provision.
The national evaluation of the Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathway (Professor Moran’s report) was published on the Gov.uk website on 13th October 2022.
Outcomes from the delivery of any accredited programme will depend on a number of factors, including the prisoner’s engagement with the accredited programme and subsequent commitment to apply the lessons learned from the programme.
Each accredited programme is scrutinised by the Correctional Services Advice and Accreditation Panel (CSAAP) who are independent, international academics and practitioners. They provide recommendations to HMPPS that inform Accredited Programme status by reviewing their design, quality assurance and evaluations in line with latest international evidence on what works in reducing reoffending. We were pleased to appoint such expertise to CSAAP in January 2022 and have outlined more about their role and membership publicly. The MoJ is committed to developing the rehabilitation evidence base and has an ongoing programme of evaluation for accredited programmes, using a range of approaches including the impact on reoffending, and studies have been published on gov.uk. Where studies have shown a programme has not been performing, we have replaced them. Evaluation is supported by programme implementation assessment to provide ongoing insight as quality of delivery has been shown by the international evidence and MoJ/HMPPS evaluations to be associated with reductions in reoffending.
The Parole Board should prioritise people serving IPPs and provide additional training to its members in understanding the impacts of the sentence. Only trained and experienced Parole Board members should oversee IPP cases. (Paragraph 93)
Responsible Organisations: Parole Board
Response: This recommendation is for the Parole Board to respond to which they have done as part of their full response to the entire report. The Parole Board have noted that altering listings may disadvantage other offenders, however they confirmed that they will undertake a review of their Listings Priority Framework with this recommendation in mind, and the Government looks forward to hearing the outcome from this.
There needs to be sufficient resource for community-based offender managers to provide IPP prisoners with the support needed to prepare for parole hearings. HMPPS should set out what it is doing to ensure that probation officers have an adequate level of contact with the offender prior to their parole hearing. (Paragraph 94)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS
Reasoning: The staffing challenges faced by the Probation Service extend to its work in prisons, supporting IPP prisoners to prepare for parole hearings. To address the staffing issues, the Probation Service has a number of existing measures in place which aim to address the shortage of staff. In hard-to-recruit regions, Public Interest Transfers are enacted to incentivise Professional Qualification in Probation (PQIP) candidates to apply to work in these regions. Since July 2022, there has been a centralisation of recruitment in 6 priority regions which lead on the recruitment of Case Administrators and Probation Services Officers with funded media and marketing. Place based support and detached duty has been deployed in red sites in London and we will be extending this provision. We have launched flexible career pathways for staff approaching retirement, to help encourage them to remain in service for longer if they choose to do so. By March 2023, our ongoing recruitment endeavour will have brought 1,500 more PQIPs on board and by the same date we will have introduced a system of financial incentivisation to support recruitment in hard-to-fill sites. In addition to recruitment, a prioritisation framework has been implemented to ensure regions focus resources on areas of highest risk.
IPP Progression Panels, an initiative introduced by the Probation Service to provide multi-disciplinary consultation on case progression and support, are delivered in custody as well as in the community. These can be used to further prepare for critical events such as a parole hearing.
HMPPS does recognise that IPP prisoners are in a challenging situation, and we will review the way in which these individuals are currently case managed whilst in custody, including the allocation and access to probation officers throughout their sentence and where additional support is required at key points in that sentence. Within this, we will also consider how we might increase resilience where it is necessary for a change of probation officer in an IPP case. Further, we will review and refresh the guidance on IPP Progression Panels, informed by this report, to ensure it continues to meet the needs for supporting IPP progression.
Furthermore, we support a reduction of the qualifying licence period from 10 years to five years. This change would go some way to restoring proportionality to the IPP sentence. The MoJ should initiate legislation to this effect as soon as possible. (Paragraph 105)
Responsible Organisations: MoJ
Reasoning: The licence period following custody is an important tool in both ensuring the public remain protected from the risk posed by offenders and to ensure that offenders are properly supported to manage their risks while reintegrating into the community. Some licences contain conditions to prohibit offenders from making contact with their victims or entering a geographical area where their victims live and work.
IPP offenders are also able to have the supervisory element of their licence suspended after five years of continuous good behaviour in the community and can live in the community under licence without onerous conditions. We will not seek to reduce the eligibility period for licence termination from 10 years to five years, but we will review the policy and practice for suspending supervision in appropriate cases with a view to ensuring the policy considers all eligible cases at the appropriate time.
Following this Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, the Secretary of State is now required to automatically refer every eligible IPP offender to the Parole Board for licence termination and to keep doing so every subsequent year where the Parole Board decides to keep the licence in place. This will give eligible offenders every opportunity to have their licence terminated and enable the IPP sentence to be brought to an end in more cases.
The Government needs to devote far greater energy and resource to tackling the “recall merry-go-round”, ensuring that IPP prisoners who do secure their release are able to live a successful life thereafter, avoiding unnecessary recall to prison. We agree with the Chair of the Parole Board that the Government should examine this issue in depth, covering, for example, the threshold for recalls, the use of Executive release, and the role of the Parole Board. The Government should discuss with local government how to ensure an adequate supply of approved premises that does not over burden specific local authorities. Emergency recalls should only be used as a last resort. Probation staff should be encouraged and supported to use alternative measures to emergency recall, such as adjusted reporting requirements, curfews and use of electronic tags. (Paragraph 120)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS
Response: Partially accept
Reasoning: We do not accept that offenders serving the IPP sentence on licence are being recalled to prison unnecessarily.
The current process for recall is robust and has been subject to extensive scrutiny, including by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, which concluded in its thematic inspection of recall culture and practice, published on 10 November 2020, that recall was being used appropriately and in order to protect the public. The Probation Service is already required to consider alternatives to recall before asking the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) formally to revoke an offender’s licence, including more frequent reporting and curfews supported by electronic monitoring. Further, for those subject to indeterminate sentences, the Probation Service must demonstrate a “causal link” in the current behaviour that was exhibited at the time of the index offence.
We have asked the Chief Inspector of Probation to conduct an independent thematic inspection in 2023/24 on whether IPP recalls are necessary and proportionate to the offender’s increased risk in connection with his breaching of licence conditions. Once confirmed and agreed, we will share with the Committee the Chief Inspector’s Terms of Reference for the thematic inspection.
Additionally, we will reinforce to all staff the recall policy, process and threshold for Indeterminate Sentenced Prisoners (ISP) including IPP cases.
We will not introduce primary legislation to enable recalled IPP prisoners to be re-released executively. Since by law it falls to the Parole Board to determine whether the statutory release test is met in the case of every offender serving the IPP sentence, it is right that the Parole Board should apply that test as much as in the case of a recalled IPP prisoner as in the case of an IPP prisoner who has never been released.
We recognise, however, that the safe management of risk in the community is, for many cases, dependent on a number of factors relating to the ongoing provision of certain community resources, such as accommodation (COM might seek a recall if they cannot find a quick alternative and, without it, the risk is deemed unmanageable in the community. We will also review this challenge in the context of our wider review of the IPP Action Plan and report back to the committee at the end of Q1 2023.
Approved Premises and other accommodation
Approved Premises are operated by HM Prison and Probation Service across England and Wales. In response to demand pressures, we are on course to deliver 169 additional bed spaces by 31 March 2023 to ensure an adequate supply of places across the country. Each additional site or expansion at an existing site is subject to discussion with the relevant local authority to obtain planning permission. We work with our criminal justice partners including the Parole Board, Police and Crime Commissioners and Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) to identify areas of highest demand in order to resettle offenders back into their local community.
The use of Electronic Monitoring (EM) as a licence variation would not be proposed as a direct alternative to recall when risk escalates significantly because there is no immediate response to a breach of an EM requirement, i.e. monitoring does not take place by Probation Practitioners in ‘real time’. Instead, using EM for licence variation is a proactive early step that can be considered to manage risk prior to recall. In relation to IPP offenders on licence, the EM team have engaged with the Probation Service and the Parole Board on the benefits of using EM with this cohort at the point of release to support with overall risk and sentence management in the community.
Currently, the HMPPS policy states that an electronically monitored curfew can only be considered where it is imposed alongside a location monitoring condition. This policy will change imminently, which will provide more flexible options when considering EM curfews to support the release of indeterminate prisoners, or a request for a licence variation where appropriate. Separately, alcohol monitoring on EM is already available to Probation Practitioners for licence variation on all cases following the national roll out in June 2022 which will provide further opportunities to aid the effective management of offenders on licence.
The Parole Board should have a greater role in decision-making around recalls. All IPP prisoners who have been recalled, not having received a new custodial sentence for committing a further offence, should have the right to an oral parole board hearing within two months of their request. The probation service should have to attend to explain their recall decision. Furthermore, all recalled IPP prisoners should be entitled to annual reviews by the Parole Board to consider whether they are fit for re-release. (Paragraph 121)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS and Parole Board
Reasoning: We do not accept that the Parole Board should be involved in the decision to recall an offender to custody. It is for the Secretary of State to take the decision on whether to recall an individual to custody on the basis of evidence that risk has become unmanageable in the community. The Parole Board’s role is to consider, at the appropriate points, whether the individual is safe to be rereleased.
Further, we do not accept that a parole hearing within two months of recall should be the focus. There is already a 28-day review on the papers at which the Parole Board has the power to re-release the offender. If the Parole Board decide an oral hearing is necessary, then they will list this in line with their listing policy, unless the panel assesses there is good reason to expedite the hearing. In cases where the Parole Board decline to re-release the recalled prisoner, HMPPS will set the date for the next review. Currently, this can be between 12 months and two years. The length of the review will depend on a number of factors such as outstanding sentence plan objectives or interventions to be completed, and mandating an annual review might work to the disadvantage of some recalled prisoners.
We will work with the Parole Board to ensure that reviews are delivered effectively.
As set out earlier in this Report, the recall of IPP sentenced individuals is a growing problem. IPP prisoners face particular challenges with resettlement, and careful consideration must therefore be given as to how they are prepared for their release and subsequently supported in the community. We agree with the Prison Reform Trust that efforts to successfully reintegrate IPP prison leavers into society must match those efforts being made to help them to achieve release.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all prison leavers leave prison with the basics, such as ID and a bank account, and ask that updates on this programme of work be provided to us. We would also welcome progress updates on the introduction of Resettlement Passports. As the passports are developed, we recommend that the MoJ works with stakeholders to give particular consideration as to how they can be used to meet the needs of IPP prisoners, including how resources such as psychologists can be most usefully deployed. In its response to this Report, the MoJ should also set out how IPP prisoners are prepared for their release, including the use of ROTL and the resettlement support and services that are available to prisoners who do not have a release date. (Paragraph 129)
Responsible Organisations: HMPPS and MoJ
Reasoning: We recognise that individuals who are released with a job, a home and support with substance misuse issues are less likely to reoffend. That is why, in 2021, the government announced an additional £550m investment over the 3-year Spending Review period to help prison leavers before and after release, through improved access to employment, sustainable housing and health and substance misuse services. This includes those being released from IPP sentences.
As set out in the Prisons Strategy White Paper, we are delivering a Prisoner Education Service which will improve the numeracy, literacy, skills and qualifications of prisoners, with the aim of securing jobs, apprenticeships or further education/training on release. For prisoners serving a longer sentence, we are working towards providing sequenced learning opportunities, in which learning is embedded throughout the whole prison.
We are rolling out banking and ID Administrators to 92 prisons to support prisoners in obtaining a bank account for use on release and ID. As of 17 October (the latest available data), there were 54 in post. Funding is available for the purchase of right to work ID such as birth certificates and we are working with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) on a process to provide driving licences.
We have continued to develop the design of Resettlement Passports, including testing with key stakeholders. We are taking an iterative approach to passport development and are already working with five prisons across three probation regions to trial an initial prototype. The passports will help prisons take a more personalised and integrated approach based on an offender’s individual needs, including, in the longer term, those serving IPP sentences.
Resettlement and release planning
The Effective Proposal Framework (EPF 2) has been deployed to ensure Community Offender Managers (COMs) consider the full range of licence conditions to support release. EPF2 is a digital tool that is completed prior to completion of a request form to the prison governor for licence conditions, or in recommending licence conditions to the Parole Board for indeterminate sentence cases. It augments professional judgement in the selection of the best licence conditions aligned to policy, evidence and availability. It enables consistency of practice and public protection based on all available options and interventions targeting in line with planned delivery.
COMs, Prison Offender Managers and Pre-Release teams work together to plan for release including referring for additional interventions/support from Psychologists, Health and/or Third sector organisations as required. IPP prisoners can access specialist Progression Regimes, where eligible, to support preparation for release. As IPP prisoners progress through the prison system, COMs work with prison colleagues to ensure support is available for effective preparation for release, including supporting moves to the most appropriate prison.
Release planning ensures resettlement support is identified so COMs can make appropriate referrals to Commissioned Rehabilitative Service (CRS) providers. Elements of CRS provision apply to people in prison without fixed release dates (e.g. help with existing debts, facilitating understanding of benefits available post-release and how to access them) as well as post-release as required, such as referrals to support continuity of care e.g. health or substance misuse provision.
Once they have a release date, IPP offenders will receive support from Prison Employment Leads, who will provide case-level employment support to get them work-ready and match them to roles on release. IPPs will also have access to advice and support on employment and benefits matters prior to their release, via the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) network of Prison Work Coaches based in our resettlement prisons, once they have a release date confirmed.
Our Community Accommodation Service Tier 3 (CAS3), launched in 5 probation regions in July 2021 and Wales in June 2022, offers prison leavers who would otherwise be homeless temporary accommodation for up to 84 nights, and can be used as a ‘move on’ provision from AP and for those at risk of homelessness. This provision will support the resettlement of IPP prisoners who lack accommodation on release.
Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) is an important resettlement tool which can reduce reoffending. Release is subject to risk assessment, but ROTL is available to those serving all sentence types and can be particularly helpful with prisoners serving longer sentences who have been out of the community for many years. In the second quarter of 2022 (latest published data), over four thousand prisoners had at least one ROTL. This includes 734 who were serving indeterminate sentences (240 serving IPP sentences). Approved Premises continue to be available as an option for ROTL for IPP cases.
As part of our review of the IPP Action Plan, we will consider how it needs to address any further specific IPP pre and post release support requirements and how they might be delivered.
Our primary recommendation is that the Government brings forward legislation to enable a resentencing exercise in relation to all IPP sentenced individuals (except for those who have successfully had their licence terminated). This is the only way to address the unique injustice caused by the IPP sentence and its subsequent administration, and to restore proportionality to the original sentences that were given. (Paragraph 152)
We have not sought to set out the terms of the proposed legislation to enable the resentencing exercise, which will ultimately be for Parliament to consider. We do, however, recommend that it should comply with the key principles that we set out below. We also appreciate that establishing a resentencing exercise will be administratively complex. Accordingly, we recommend that the Government set up a time-limited small expert committee to advise on the practical implementation of the resentencing exercise in conjunction with the senior judiciary. (Paragraph 154)
Responsible Organisations: MoJ
Reasoning: At the time of abolition of the IPP sentence in 2012, the Government decided against retrospectively abolishing the sentences of those still serving IPPs. The Government recognised that to re-sentence those individuals would result in unacceptable risk of serious harm to the public as many IPPs would be released without an assessment by the independent Parole Board that they could be managed safely in the community.
Therefore, those who had already been sentenced to and were serving an IPP sentence in prison continued to serve the sentence either because they had not yet served the minimum term of imprisonment or, where they have served the minimum term, because the independent Parole Board had determined that their risk remained too high for them to be safely managed in the community.
The risks to public protection from the immediate release of serving IPP prisoners continue to exist. Although the Government recognises the frustrations and concerns surrounding the IPP sentence, our view is that the IPP Action Plan remains the best way in which these offenders can progress towards safe release. The Action Plan is regularly refreshed and updated, and it will again be reviewed in light of the recommendations from the Justice Select Committee to ensure it offers the best possible support to IPP offenders, whether in custody or in the community.
The Parole Board for England and Wales welcomes the report from the Committee’s Inquiry into the sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). Much of the report resonates with the experiences of Parole Board members who review these cases, and we have considered the recommendations very carefully.
I thought it would be helpful to set out the position on those recommendations that are relevant to the Board’s work.
In identifying solutions to the IPP problem, the MoJ, HMPPS and Parole Board must acknowledge the psychological harm caused by the IPP sentence, and the challenges this presents regarding progression. The MoJ and HMPPS should also set out how they intend to improve access to mental health support for IPP prisoners, including transfers to secure hospitals and therapeutic settings.
Response: The Parole Board partially accepts this recommendation.
The Parole Board is acutely aware of the frustration, anxiety and loss of hope that is often felt by those serving an IPP sentence and this, understandably, can lead to increased incidence of psychological harm. This was highlighted in the Board’s response to this Inquiry and the Joint Committee call for evidence on the draft Mental Health Bill.
The Board fully supports efforts in finding ways of safely progressing IPP prisoners with mental health difficulties. However, the Board can only partially accept this recommendation as, given the Board’s statutory remit (please see the end note), it has limited powers to suggest how these needs can be met and how prisoners can be progressed through their sentence, specifically in relation to transfers to secure hospitals and therapeutic settings. Importantly, the Parole Board only has the power to give advice when the Secretary of State requests it. It has no freestanding jurisdiction to give advice on its own initiative.
While the Board cannot accept the recommendation in full, it fully acknowledges the importance of ensuring that the psychological impact of the sentence on prisoners and the possible impact that this may have on progression is recognised.
The Board has already been taking steps to address this, which are outlined below:
The Policy team at the Board is developing best practice guidance for members which will be informed by the published findings from these studies and the recommendations from the Committee’s Inquiry.
Moving forward, the Board will continue to work with the MoJ and HMPPS in identifying solutions to the problem and is keen to assist where it can.
The MoJ, HMPPS and the Parole Board should set out what support is available to those prisoners who are remitted back to prison after a period of time spent under section in a secure hospital, and how they are supported to progress in their sentence.
Response: This appears to be a recommendation for HMPPS and not for the Board.
Whilst the recommendation is addressed to the Parole Board, as it is essentially about sentence planning, it therefore falls outside of the Board’s statutory remit.
When a case is referred to the Parole Board, panels are explicitly asked to avoid becoming involved in sentence planning. Whilst the recommendation is not directly a matter for the Board we support its importance.
In its response to the call for evidence by the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill, the Board highlighted the issue of prisoners being returned to prison following remission from a s47/49 Mental Health Act (MHA) transfer to hospital. Very often, these prisoners have spent significant periods of time in hospital and usually the plan would be for them to be discharged/released via the Mental Health Tribunal (MHT) and Parole Board processes. However, in some cases, an incident takes place, and a decision is made to return them immediately to prison. For restricted patients with mental illness, this is often an inappropriate response, as the original reasons for their transfer to hospital still remain. They are also unlikely to remain mentally stable enough to complete any required offending behaviour work and their mental health subsequently deteriorates. Both of these make it very difficult for the Parole Board to then agree to their release as the mental health pathway identified is often no longer available.
While the recommendation falls outside of the Board’s remit, the Committee may be interested in the following workstreams relating to prisoners transferred to hospital under s47/49 of the MHA who are serving a life or other indeterminate sentence (or a parole eligible determinate sentence). While not specific to IPP sentences, the workstreams should have a beneficial impact on IPP progression.
For prisoners transferred (as a restricted patient) to hospital under S47/49 of the MHA currently, the relevant MHT and then the Parole Board are separately required to consider decisions on discharge and release respectively. The Independent Mental Health Act Review report published in 2018 made a recommendation in relation to the Parole Board with regard to s47/49 MHA patients whose eventual release is a matter for the Board. This involves restricted patients who currently have an MHT, which finds them suitable for discharge from hospital but then must wait for the Parole Board to review their case and direct whether or not they can be released. The report highlighted that the existing process involving both the MHT and Parole Board was far too elongated and inefficient, and recommended that it be streamlined. It was acknowledged that, in many cases, significant delays occurred between the two hearings.
In response to this, the Parole Board and the Public Protection Group within HMPPS, in consultation with the MHTs, established a pilot for a new streamlined parole process for this cohort of prisoners. It should be noted that whilst both the MHT and Parole Board undertake risk assessments, they are approached differently, and this must remain a key component of the process. The evaluation of the pilot is due to take place in early 2023.
As mentioned above, the Board is establishing a cross-agency Mental Health in Prison working group, which will have a workstream to explore the specific considerations of IPP prisoners.
The Parole Board should prioritise people serving IPPs, and provide additional training to its members in understanding the impacts of the sentence. Only trained and experienced Parole Board members should oversee IPP cases.
Response: The Parole Board partially accepts this recommendation.
The Parole Board has a Listings Priority Framework (LPF) that sets out a general set of principles to guide its approach to listing those cases referred to it by the Secretary of State. These principles balance the need to manage overall case load with the obligation the Parole Board is under to ensure the timely review of cases where a prisoner on licence has been recalled, and those prisoners serving indeterminate sentences and other parole eligible sentences.
Under the LPF, the Parole Board already prioritises all cases referred to it under the Generic Parole Process (GPP), which includes life sentence and IPP prisoners. If the Board were to specifically prioritise all IPP prisoners, this would impact on its ability to list all other case types and would have the unintended consequence of disadvantaging life sentence prisoners who are currently prioritised at the same time as IPPs. The Board is shortly to undertake a review of the LPF and will take into account the findings of the Inquiry and its recommendations.
In respect of member awareness of the impact of the IPP sentence, the Parole Board recognises that a highly skilled and knowledgeable membership is key to making sound and defensible decisions that protect the public and takes into account the needs of individual prisoners. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is critical to achieving this and members maintain, build, and refresh competence through a range of CPD activities. The Board has recently developed training on the questioning of vulnerable prisoners. We will make sure that the findings of the Inquiry are reflected within ongoing CPD activities.
The Parole Board welcomes the opportunity to make it clear that all Parole Board members are given all the necessary training to carry out their role. This includes specialist training for each different decision-making role, such as MCA, duty members, and panel chairing.
In respect of the recommendation that only experienced Parole Board members should oversee IPP cases, all Parole Board members go through a training programme, are part of an accreditation process, and come from a wealth of different backgrounds, expertise, and experience. As mentioned above, the Board also has a programme of ongoing CPD activities. To provide a source of dedicated, ongoing support that complements formal CPD, induction and ad hoc support from other members and staff, the Parole Board has developed a one-to-one mentoring scheme, including a 12-month framework for new members. By definition, mentoring will adapt according to the individuals involved and the skill sets and experience that they bring to the role.
To limit the members who could hear IPP sentence cases would have significant resource implications and lead to further counter-productive delays in reviewing and listing cases. There is also the argument in terms of how members would become experienced if they are not sitting on these specific cases.
The Parole Board should have a greater role in decision-making around recalls. All IPP prisoners who have been recalled, not having received a new custodial sentence for committing a further offence, should have the right to an oral parole board hearing within two months of their request. The probation service should have to attend to explain their recall decision. Furthermore, all recalled IPP prisoners should be entitled to annual reviews by the Parole Board to consider whether they are fit for re-release.
Response: The Parole Board partially accepts this recommendation.
The Board’s role in IPP recalls is to ensure parole reviews progress without unlawful delay, and that Parole Board panels correctly apply the statutory release test set by Parliament. In relation to the recommendation for the Parole Board to have a greater role in decision-making around recalls, the Board made representations on this to the Root and Branch Review of the Parole System. Whilst changes to primary legislation are a matter for Parliament, the Board has previously signalled that it would very much welcome changes that would support a reduction in IPP recalls.
The Board was pleased to see in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 the introduction of the automatic referral process for those individuals who have reached the ten-year point since their initial release from prison and are now eligible for the Board to consider whether their IPP licence can be terminated. The Board has already seen a marked increase in referrals but is aware that there is a significant backlog as colleagues across HMPPS endeavour to catch up. Terminating IPP licences for those individuals who no longer pose a significant risk to the public will support the eventual reduction of this cohort of sentenced individuals and remove the ever-present risk of recall that hangs over them.
In relation to the recommendation for recalled IPP prisoners to have a hearing within two months, this is unfortunately not practical, for a number of reasons, nor would it be fair to other prisoners who are awaiting a hearing. Some cases may take longer to list depending on the complexity of the issues involved, what evidence is provided by the Secretary of State within the parole dossier as part of the referral, what further evidence is necessary to resolve the issues in the case, and how long it will take for further evidence to be provided. Every case referred to the Board goes through a Member Case Assessment (MCA) stage where it is considered by an MCA accredited member to see if the case can be concluded on the papers, without the need for an oral hearing, or sets out additional steps that are needed for the matter to be determined fairly and swiftly. The quality and completeness of the evidence provided by the Secretary of State within the parole dossier have a significant impact on the effectiveness of this assessment to be undertaken. If the panel at MCA has to adjourn or defer for more information, this will take longer.
The Board recognise that delays can have a massive impact on those serving the IPP sentence and that last minute adjournments/deferrals can lead to feelings of frustration and despair. However, quality of parole dossiers and directions compliance have a significant impact on the Board being able to carry out a speedy review. There is the risk that listing a case too early without all the necessary information could have a negative impact on the IPP prisoner as this can lead to additional adjournments. Six months in practice to list a case is an ideal, but as highlighted, this depends on all the information coming to the Board at the right time. The Board is working closely with HMPPS on improving the quality of parole dossiers and on directions compliance.
In relation to an entitlement for annual reviews, the referral to the Board is a matter for the Secretary of State. The Board responds to the referral that is made and cannot act of its own accord.
I do hope the above provides the Committee with an outline of how the Board is contributing to this work and we look forward to reading the Government’s formal response, once published.
Should you have any questions or require further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Martin Jones CBE
The Parole Board for England and Wales