Protest over ‘unjust’ indefinite sentences
THEY have served prison sentences way beyond their original tariffs but now North families are planning to protest as they step up a campaign to get their loved ones released.
The family and friends are of those caught up in the controversial Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences which came into force for England and Wales in 2005 but was axed in 2012.
Danny Weatherson was just 18 when a judge recommended he served almost 16 months for two attempted robberies before he could apply for parole – but it took 11 years and nine months for him to be released.
He got out on July 3 and was told to spend three months in a hostel in Leeds before being allowed to return to home soil in Newcastle.
Frustrated over not being with his family, without benefits and miles away from home, Danny threw a chair on the floor in the hostel which bounced and cracked a window.
It was on his 29th birthday on July 18 and he was recalled to prison.
Now dad Maurice Stevens, 45, of Lemington, Newcastle, is joining scores of others to protest against the IPP sentences outside the gates of Holme House Prison in Stockton on October 7.
And Stacey Webb, 37, of Ashington, is also joining the protest as she fights for the release of her partner Damien Hickman, 36, who was sentenced for three-and-a-half years back in 2007 after causing wounding with intent when he stabbed his brother.
The pair will be joining Joanne Hibert, of Preston, who is organising protests at prisons around the country to try and urge the government to pass quicker releases.
Joanne is fighting for the release of her partner Ian Harley, 43, who was banged up for robbery in 2006 when his tariff was originally for three years and two months.
Dad-of-12 Maurice said: “These IPP sentences are stupid. The public should know more about them and this protest is to make people more aware.
“Danny’s mental state is not good, he came out and smelt the fresh air and was recalled. These type of sentences no longer are handed out.
“People who do the same crime as Danny today would be out after doing half their time given in court. But Danny is still in there. We want this protest to make a difference.”
Mum-of three Stacey said: “Damien keeps getting knocked back for his release but there is nothing more he can do and they still keep him in there.
“It is killing him being in prison because his mother and father are very ill and now he has me and he wants to get out.
“These IPP sentences are ridiculous and we hope this protest will make more people aware of them.”
Ministry of Justice data shows thousands of IPP prisoners are still being held since the sentences was abolished and last year 553 were released.
The authorities admit the IPP sentence was massively criticised and “used far more widely than intended”.
Former Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said on IPP sentencing: “Public protection must be the number one priority. But it seems unjust that someone sentenced in 2010 can remain in prison for years when – if sentenced today – they might have an automatic release date.
“That’s why it’s important we tackle the backlog of these cases that are waiting for a parole board hearing. We are making progress.”
Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Parole Board and a former chief inspector of prisons, has previously told the government to “get a grip” on the issue of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences and IPPs.
He has said in the past: “The levels of suicide, assault, and self-harm [in prison] is unacceptably high. It’s the fault of political and policy decisions that should have been put right two years ago.”
Protest organiser, mum-of-five Joanne, 41, said: “I want others to get involved and I’m going to protest outside as many prisons as possible. I’m wanting the release of my partner Ian Hartley but I also want others on IPP sentences to be released.
“I have had meetings with David Blunkett, the Parole Board and the Prison Reform Trust. I have protested outside prisons and Parliament, we hope to get between 60 to 80 at the protest outside Holme House Prison on October 7 and raise awareness about IPP prisoners.” MAURICE STEVENS
Danny Weatherson, right, with dad Maurice Steven. Danny served nearly 12 years in prison – for a 16-month sentence.