RIP the IPP: A Look Back at the Sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection

Date01 August 2012
Published date01 August 2012
RIP the IPP: A Look Back at the Sentence of
Imprisonment for Public Protection
Christopher Rose*
Keywords Sentencing policy; Dangerous offenders; Sentences of im-
prisonment for public protection; Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punish-
ment of Offenders Act 2012; Prison reform
Anyone working within the criminal justice system will have responded
with a weary sense of déjà vu to the announcement, in autumn 2011, by
the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clark, of a new sentencing
regime. The proposals, now enacted into law by the Legal Aid, Senten-
cing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, follow the practice of the
previous administration of introducing signif‌icant changes to sentencing
policy every few years, giving little opportunity for practitioners to get to
grips with the existing policy. This is best exemplif‌ied by the approach to
sentencing ‘dangerous offenders’ which, doubtless due to its political
sensitivity, has attracted the greatest level of political interference. Here,
the Act’s provisions see an end to one of the more controversial pieces of
recent sentencing legislation, the sentence of imprisonment for public
protection (IPP) and a return to the previous policy of automatic life
sentences for offenders convicted of a second serious violent or sexual
The birth of the IPP
IPPs were introduced by the dangerous offender provisions (ss 224–229)
of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. They were life sentences in all but
name, differing only in that offenders subject to an IPP could apply to
have their sentence discharged once 10 years had elapsed following
their release on licence from custody. As originally enacted, the provi-
sions attracted criticism for being too prescriptive and, as a consequence,
too draconian. An adult offender committing an offence listed in Sched.
15 to the 2003 Act (a ‘specif‌ied offence’), provided that the offence was
punishable with either a life sentence or a sentence of at least 10 years’
imprisonment (making it a ‘serious offence’), would have to receive
either a life sentence or an IPP if he met the test for dangerousness. The
test was whether the offender posed a signif‌icant risk to members of the
public of serious harm occasioned by the commission by him of further
such offences. Similar provisions provided for sentences of detention for
public protection for offences committed by offenders aged under 18.
The prescriptive aspect of the provisions came in that the court was
required to assume that the dangerousness test was met if the offender
* A barrister on the North Eastern Circuit; e-mail:
303The Journal of Criminal Law (2012) 76 JCL 303–313

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