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Norfolk Christian Forum urges end to unfair prison sentences 

The Bishop of Lynn and a group of Norfolk Christians interested in criminal justice, have been inspired by a Norwich Judge to urge the Government to intervene on behalf of 2,400 prisoners imprisoned under the now abolished Imprisonment for Public Protection sentencing. 

The Bishop of Lynn, Rt Rev Jonathan Meyrick (pictured) and others from Norfolk’s Ecumenical Criminal Justice Forum have issued a call to MPs and Government urging action for prisoners held under the now-defunct Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences.
At a meeting in June, the Ecumenical Criminal Justice Forum heard from Norwich Judge His Honour Stephen Holt about his concerns for those prisoners held under Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences.

Rev Canon Chris Copsey, who co-ordinates the Ecumenical Forum, which meets quarterly at Bishop’s House in Norwich, said: “He gave a powerful account of the effect on prisoners under such sentences and the, as he sees it, obvious injustice that some prisoners are currently subjected to. Such was the strength of feeling among those present at the meeting that we have resolved, as a group, to try to do something about the present situation.”

IPP sentencing was intended to protect the public by indeterminately holding prisoners who were deemed too dangerous to be released when their original sentence had been served. However, it led to these prisoners being held far longer than their tariffs, often because of a lack of resources to adequately assess their suitability for release.

In 2012 IPP sentences were abolished. Yet the decision was not applied retroactively and those IPP sentences given out before 2012 remained in place. There are still 2,400 prisoners held under IPP sentences. 

The Bishop of Lynn, Rev Canon Chris Copsey and Chair of the Ecumencial Criminal Justice Forum Paddy Seligman OBE have signed a letter to MPs, Ministers and those involved in prison sentencing demanding action.

The group write: “It is considered that urgent action must take place for the IPP Prisoners because it is manifestly unfair to keep prisoners in custody over their Tariff if they have complied with all the requirements for release.”

The letter details the plight of the prisoners, saying, “The majority were over the Tariff set by the courts. Many of these prisoners were given fairly short Tariffs and are unable to achieve the Rehabilitation courses and Accredited Offender Behaviour Programmes set out in their Prison Sentence Plans. Therefore, through no fault of their own and largely because the Prison Service does not have the capacity or resources to put on the required courses, prisoners are unable to satisfy the criteria for release.”

The letter outlines four recommendations including the simple solution of converting IPP sentences to determinate sentences and providing a firm release date, as well as assigning additional resources for Parole Boards to provide assessments and consider cases.

“We feel this should have been addressed ten years ago but the issue is yet to be resolved,” the ECJF letter concludes.

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