Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Peer criticises indeterminate prison sentences

A former Lord Justice of Appeal has hit out at the "continuing disaster" of indefinitely jailed prisoners serving indeterminate sentences, during question time in the House of Lords.

Crossbencher Lord Lloyd of Berwick told peers on 13 November 2012 that 6,000 people were serving indeterminate sentences (IPPS) in England and Wales, including 3,500 who had passed their tariff date and were waiting to appear before the parole board.

About 2,000 had been waiting for more than two years, he said, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled that their detention in these circumstances was "arbitrary and therefore unlawful".

He asked Justice Minister Lord McNally: "Do you recognise the scale of this continuing disaster? Do you accept that the government must do something now to get these wretched people out of prison."

Lord McNally said the government had already taken action by abolishing IPPs, which were introduced by the previous Labour administration.

Lord McNally said the system had to be "unwound" carefully, adding: "We are not talking about people who are innocent. We are talking about people who have been sentenced for serious crimes for long periods."

'Cut links with Strasbourg'

He said the government was bringing in a more "flexible approach", adding: "But it isn't simply a matter of throwing open the gates of the prisons because we are dealing, in some cases, with very dangerous people and we have to have public protection in mind."

Lord McNally said the government was still considering whether to appeal against the court's ruling that jailing offenders indefinitely without providing proper access to rehabilitation courses breached human rights.

Plaid Cymru peer Lord Wigley warned that some prisoners may seek compensation from the government, but Lord McNally said the court had not found that IPPs were "in breach of the Act".

Conservative Lord Faulks suggested it was time to consider "cutting the links with Strasbourg" because there was little sign of the European courts "affording us the margin of appreciation, which they are supposed to do".

Lord McNally told him: "We get enormous benefit from being part of a wider regime of human rights."

At the end of the session peers passed the Civil Aviation Bill, which reforms regulation of the UK's airports, at third reading. The bill now returns to the Commons where MPs will consider changes made to it in the Lords.

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