National Offender Management Service
Public Protection Unit
J. Jordan Page Street
7th October 2009
Dear J. Jordan,
I write in response to your email of 15th September. You raise three specific questions and I will answer each
1. What justification do the Ministry of Justice have for detaining prisoners with less than 2 years tariff,
when since July 2008 these people would not have had these IPP sentences?
Parliament decided not to make the change in the sentence retrospective. However, I should point out that
the tariff is simply the minimum period specified by the court which has to be served in custody for the
purposes of retribution and deterrence. It is not linked to the offender’s risk of harm, and the whole purpose
of the IPP sentence is that an offender sentenced to an IPP should not be released until the independent
Parole Board determines that his/her risk of harm is such that it may be safely managed in the community.
Therefore, whether the tariff is 18 months or 4 years, the same test has to be applied by the Parole Board
before it directs the release of an IPP prisoner.
2. What considerations are given to prisoners who maintain their innocence and have an IPP? The Secretary
of State informs parole hearings their views on prisoners maintaining their innocence and I would request to
know what they base their judgements on?
Both the Prison and Probation Services start from the assumption the prisoner was found guilty ‘beyond a
reasonable doubt’ and rightly convicted by the Court. However, the fact a prisoner continues to protest their
innocence or deny their guilt is not a bar to release. There is no rule or policy automatically preventing such
prisoners from progressing through the system, or from being released. Such prisoners can be, and have
been, released because the Parole Board has decided, on the grounds of the risk to the life and limb of the
public, the offender can be safely managed in the community.
The Parole Board’s first duty is to assess the risk of harm a prisoner may pose to the public if released on
licence. For that reason it is unlawful for the Board to refuse to consider the question of release solely on the
grounds the prisoner continues to maintain their innocence/deny guilt.
Thus, a prisoner who maintains their innocence/denies guilt, but still takes a full and active part in the risk
assessment processes, undertakes relevant interventions, addresses and reduces identified risk factors and
reduces the perceived level of risk of harm they pose to the public, can potentially gain release at tariff
expiry whilst still maintaining their innocence or denying full or partial guilt for the actual offence.
3. I would also like to know why the Secretary of State's notification to a parole board has no address,
department, name or reference contained in it?
The notification letter is sent on behalf of the Office of Secretary of State, regardless who holds that office at
the time. It is sent by PPCS, whose address is at the bottom of the letter. No caseworker is identified on the
letter as it is PPCS, not the individual, who sends the letter on behalf of the Secretary of State.
I hope this fully answers you questions.
PPU correspondence Unit