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High Court rules detention for indefinite sentence prisoners post-tariff is "unlawful"  

31/07/2007

The High Court (Queen's Bench Division) has ruled today that the continued incarceration of prisoners serving indefinite sentences where the prisons do not have the facilities and courses required to assess their suitability for release was “arbitrary, unreasonable and unlawful”. (link to judgment included in article below).

David Walker v Secretary of State for The Home Department

and

Nicholas Wells v The Parole Board & The Secretary of State for Justice [2007] EWHC 1835 (QB)

Imprisonment for public protection (known as IPP), the scheme introduced by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2005, has been considered by many as being ineffective and significantly contributing to prison overcrowding. Many prisoners have been given very short term indefinite sentences and at the expiry of their tariff have not had any opportunity to carry out the required coursework to assess their suitability for release. The system has been described as being “shambolic”.

In today's judgment, Lord Justice Laws said “to the extent that a prisoner remains incarcerated after tariff expiry without any current and effective assessment of the danger he does or does not pose, his detention cannot in reason be justified. It is therefore unlawful”.

However the government was granted a stay pending an urgent application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

If the Court of Appeal upholds the judgment, the government could be faced with having to release thousands of prisoners serving short-term indefinite sentences once their tarrif has expired.

> download judgment .

Commentary by Erimnaz Mushtaq , member of Garden Court North Prison law team .

Media coverage

> Dangerous inmates may go free after court ruling on indefinite sentences - The Times (1/8/07)

> Inmates left in limbo by failures in new sentences - The Guardian (1/8/07)

> Prisons strategy in disarray after ruling – The Telegraph (31/7/07)

> Ministers face legal challenge over jails crisis - The Guardian (4/6/07)



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