"Why was my friend Peter sent to jail with no time set for his release?"asks Sophie Radice (who has no linked byline - we need to read the comments to find out that her father is part of the New Labour team that brought this type of sentence in).
Well, why has he?
Peter has done some very stupid things in his short life...Me too, Sophie. I once put a bright red T-shirt in with my white towels and turned them all pink. And I cooked a chicken once without first removing the bag of giblets! Boy, was my face red.
So, what did Peter do?
...he has been involved in a massive gang fight and a bungled robbery...Right, yes. A very different kettle of fish, wouldn't you say?
Aylesbury prison is gothically grim. When I visited Peter, he said that having an IPP made him feel as if he "had nothing to lose" and at times he felt as if he might as well "top himself because there is no end in sight, no way of mentally crossing off the days".I guess prison's working, then. One way or another, he'll no longer be a danger...
He told us that if he had a release date he would keep his head down and serve his time.Would he? Oh, how jolly decent of him! Thanks awfully, Sophie, for letting us know that!
But surely he's had a poor upbringing, or something else to exonerate him for being a dim, violent little street thug?
Bingo!Fancy that, a left-wing bleeding heart agrees with a faux-Tory. Shocker...
I knew that the family had been through imprisonment and torture in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to their family's long opposition to Mobuto and that Peter had a darker side to him perhaps because of this.Perhaps. And perhaps not. Even the kid's own brief wasn't convinced:
He asked me: "How do you know that Peter won't become a danger to the public in the future?" and I could only answer that surely the law wasn't there to predict someone's future behaviour. Depressingly, he said that boys like that usually went on to commit more crime.And he's probably right. He, after all, has seen this sort of thing quite a bit.
We found a new barrister. She visited Peter in prison and took time to read all the notes. At the end of July, we went back to court on appeal and our fantastic barrister got the IPP overturned.Hurrah! Now we'll see if he's a 'danger' won't we? Will you be paying compensation to his next victim, Sophie?
I would never have imagined that justice minister Kenneth Clarke would ever do anything I agreed with. Not only would he have had Peter doing extensive community service rather than be banged up at the tender age of 16, but in November there is a government sentencing review which is looking at IPPs.
Our limited resources should be concentrated on those who have committed crimes which show that they really pose an actual, rather than a possible, threat to the safety of the public.Hmmm, well, Sophie Radice is a very distinctive name. Tell me, are you the 'Sophie Radice' who thought something quite different about the drug mephedrone back in March?
On a much more visceral, instinctive level, this "let's wait and see how harmful this drug is" D category doesn't comfort me at all.You'd like us to 'wait and see' with Peter, though, wouldn't you?