Imprisonment for public protection

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In England and Wales, the imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence was a form of indeterminate sentence introduced by s.225 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and abolished in 2012. It was intended to protect the public against criminals whose crimes were not serious enough to merit a normal life sentence but who were regarded as too dangerous to be released when the term of their original sentence had expired. It is composed of a punitive "tariff" intended to be proportionate to the gravity of the crime committed and an indeterminate period which commences after the expiration of the tariff and lasts until the Parole Board judges the prisoner no longer poses a risk to the public and is fit to be released.[1] The equivalent for under-18s was called detention for public protection, introduced by s. 226 of the 2003 Act. The sentences came into effect on 4 April 2005.[2]

Although it is possible that some prisoners detained under IPPs may never be released, the possibility of their being released on review exists, and these sentences should not be confused with a sentence of life imprisonment with a whole-life tariff.

In 2007, the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court ruled that the continued incarceration of prisoners serving IPPs after tariff expiry where the prisons lack the facilities and courses required to assess their suitability for release was unlawful,[3] bringing up concern that many dangerous offenders would go free.[4] In 2010, a joint report by the chief inspectors of prisons and probation stated that IPP sentences were unsustainable with the then prison over-crowding in the UK.[5]

In 2012, the IPP sentence was abolished by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, although over 6000 prison inmates still remain under the IPP sentence without their sentences having been reverted.[6][7]


  1. ^ Sentencing dangerous offenders. Crown Prosecution Service.
  2. ^ "Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences and the pressure on the Parole Board". Select Committee on Justice Fifth Report. Parliament. 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "High Court rules detention for indefinite sentence prisoners post-tariff is 'unlawful'". Garden Court North Chambers. 2007-07-31. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  4. ^ Ford, Richard (August 1, 2007). "Dangerous inmates may go free after court ruling on indefinite sentences". London: The Times. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  5. ^ "Inspectors call for review of 'unsustainable' indefinite prison sentences". The Telegraph (London). 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  6. ^ Barnes, Sophie (2012-09-18). "Indeterminate sentences: a 'stain' on the criminal justice system". The Guardian (London). 
  7. ^ Nick Robinson (2011-06-21). "Sentence reform U-turn serves up hard cheese in prisons". BBC News. 

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