UK court rules against government in indeterminate jail term cases

[JURIST] The Queen's Bench Division of the England and Wales High Court ruled [judgment text] Tuesday that the continued imprisonment of two inmates serving indeterminate prison sentences without the means to prove their rehabilitation constitutes arbitrary and unreasonable detention and is therefore unlawful. An indeterminate sentence, also referred to as an imprisonment for public protection sentence (IPP) [BBC backgrounder], requires an inmate to demonstrate to the Parole Board [official website] that he or she is no longer a threat to society to become eligible for release after serving a minimum sentence. The two petitioners had served their minimum sentence, but had been unable to provide the Parole Board with any such evidence because the prisons lacked the resources for rehabilitation programs. The UK Ministry of Justice [official website] and Parole Board have been granted a stay on the ruling pending a decision from the England and Wales Court of Appeal.

IPP sentences were introduced as part of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 [Sec. 225 text] and became effective in April 2005. The ruling is the latest setback to the UK's overcrowded prison system. In June, the UK justice minister told members of parliament that he had given authority to prison wardens to parole offenders who were coming to the end of their sentence [JURIST report] to help relieve prison overcrowding [BBC backgrounder] across England and Wales. In May, the England and Wales Court of Appeal ruled [judgment] that prisoners held in detention beyond the date on which they became eligible for parole may seek compensation for wrongful imprisonment. An estimated 500 to 700 prisoners annually miss their early release deadlines due to delays in the system, denying them a mandatory hearing before a parole board. The UK Press Association has more.

 

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