The statutory law is in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Part 12 Chapter 5. The law was amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 sections 13-20.
The law as originally enacted in 2003 was considered by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in R v Lang  EWCA Crim 2864 and, later, in R v Johnson and others  EWCA Crim 2486. The law, as amended by the 2008 Act, was considered in C and others  EWCA Crim 2790. (Other cases of interest include: Ashes  EWCA Crim 1848; Wilkinson and others  EWCA Crim 1925 and the "causing or allowing the death of a child" case of Owen  EWCA Crim 2259).
A sentence for IPP is "indeterminate" in length. Release, after a specified minimum term has been served, is subject to the discretion of the Parole Board. The difficulties which some prisoners have encountered in this area have been the subject of litigation - for example, see the House of Lords judgment in Secretary of State for Justice v James  UKHL 22 where Lord Hope of Craighead said:
A useful report about IPP was issued in 2010 by the Prison Reform Trust.
See also the excellent article in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly 31st July 2010 which examines IPP in detail including the problems which had arisen in connection with release once the minimum period has been served.
Ministry of Justice proposals:
The Ministry's press release ("Tough Intelligent Sentencing") indicates that IPP will be replaced by a regime having the following features:-
- Mandatory life sentences - a ‘two strikes’ policy so that a mandatory life sentence will be given to anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime. This will mean that mandatory life sentences can be given for crimes other than murder
- Extending the category of the most serious sexual and violent offences to include child sex offences, terrorism offences and ‘causing or allowing the death of a child’ so that the new provisions will apply to them
- The Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) – all dangerous criminals convicted of serious sexual and violent crimes will be imprisoned for at least two thirds of their sentence, marking an end to the regime which allowed the release of these offenders at the half-way point. Offenders convicted of the most serious sexual and violent crimes in this category will not be released before the end of their sentence without Parole Board approval
- Extended licence period – criminals who complete an EDS must then serve extended licence periods where they will be closely monitored and returned to prison if necessary. The courts have the power to give up to an extra five years of licence for violent offenders and eight years for sexual offenders on top of their prison sentence
Kenneth Clarke (Secretary of State for Justice) stated that:
'The new regime will restore clarity, coherence and common sense to sentencing, rid us of the inconsistent and confusing IPP regime and give victims a clearer understanding of how long offenders will actually serve in prison."
The detailed amendment proposals are set out in "Notices of amendment given on 26th October" (see 3627 at NC30) and they proceed, as is unfortunately usual, by the "cut and paste" technique. This makes it far from easy to see the full legislative scheme as it will be if and when enacted. In fact, in this instance, the amount of cutting and pasting required is very extensive. At this point, one interesting feature may be noted. It is a proposal to give the Secretary of State an "Henry VIII power" to alter the test for release on licence of certain prisoners - see NC34 here.
The passing of IPP will not be mourned. A fuller analysis of the proposals for its replacement will be necessary.
24th June 2010 ..... 11th July 2010 ..... 2nd November 2010