Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

England and Wales: Indeterminate Sentences Not Unlawful

(June 1, 2009) The House of Lords, the UK's final court of appeal, has recently ruled that indeterminate sentences for public protection (commonly known as IPPs) should remain in place, despite there being a lack of adequate resources available to prisoners sentenced under these provisions that might aid them in securing their release. The current system is provided for in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and allows judges to sentence individuals to an indeterminate period of detention to protect the public, if the individual is convicted of a serious sexual or violent crime that is punishable by ten or more years of imprisonment; is assessed as “dangerous”; and poses a significant risk of serious physical or psychological harm to members of the public if he or she were to commit further offenses. When sentencing, the court provides a minimum term that the offender must serve in custody. After that time has elapsed, the offender remains in custody until the Parole Board is satisfied that the risk to the public has diminished sufficiently to allow the offender to be released under supervision. (R (James) v. Secretary of State for Justice (Parole Board Intervening) [2009] UKHL 22; Prisoners on indeterminate sentences must stay behind bars, Lords rule, 153 SOLICITORS JOURNAL 5 (May 12, 2009).)