‘It’s bittersweet’: MoJ sentencing changes will bring freedom for some

A man who is set to have his indefinite licence period terminated under changes to a much-maligned scheme has said it will give him back his freedom but expressed sympathy for those stuck in jail who will not benefit.

Marc Conway, 43, received an imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence with a minimum term of five and a half years for armed robbery, but served just over eight years before being released on licence. Last month marked five years since he was released on licence, meaning he will be eligible to have his sentence immediately terminated under the changes, which allow for this to happen after three years in the community if the Parole Board agrees (down from 10 years), or five years at the latest.

Conway, who was among those who chased the perpetrator of the 2019 London Bridge terror attack, said of the announcement by the Ministry of Justice: “It’s bittersweet for me. Obviously it’s good that I can sleep where I want to sleep, I can live where I want to live, I can go on holiday, without having to notify probation services – well, I couldn’t travel anyway so I’ve been waiting to have a family holiday for five years – so that’s great for me. But what saddens me is the people that need the reforms of IPP are the ones that are stuck inside, some of them [having served] three or four times over their recommended tariff.”

The changes announced on Tuesday will not affect those now in jail – 1,269 of whom have never been released on licence, with another 1,652 having previously been released on licence but then recalled to jail.

Sara Ramsden’s partner, Rob Dutton, has been recalled four times but has been out for the past 18 months. Like Conway, she welcomed the news but said it did not go far enough.

“From a personal perspective, this would really change the ground for us,” she said. “This would mean that Rob will be able to come off his IPP and the licence so that is a massive bonus for us and something that obviously would really change our lives in a massive way. To see light at the end of the tunnel after such a long, very dark journey to get there is progress.

“But it still isn’t going far enough for those who are not going to be impacted by this change. My thoughts are with the people who have been affected the most severely, the ones who’ve never left custody. The only answer still is for those people remaining on this sentence to be resentenced, it’s the only way forward.”

Resentencing of all IPP prisoners was recommended by the justice select committee last year but rejected by the government. Among those stuck behind bars is Aaron Graham, one of the longest-serving IPP prisoners, having spent 18 years on an IPP sentence (including two on remand), without ever having been released on licence, after being sentenced to a minimum term of less than three years for grievous bodily harm.

His sister, Cherie Nichol, said: “I am unselfishly very happy for the families of those [IPP offenders] on the outside that get to have a bit of certainty [about their release date]. For the people like my brother who have done 20 years, without any hope, it’s very upsetting. As his sister the only thing I can take from this is that when he does come home he’ll only have five years on licence rather than 10.”


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