Protest over ‘unjust’ in­def­i­nite sen­tences

Sunday Sun - - News - By Lisa Hutchin­son Reporter lisa.hutchin­son@ncj­me­

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.

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