Sutton woman campaigns to free her brother who has served 10 years for a 10 month sentence


A Sutton woman is campaigning for the release of her brother who is still in prison 10 years after he was given a sentence of just 10 months.

James Ward was as initially jailed for a year after assaulting his father but near the end of the sentence he set fire to his prison mattress and was handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) for arson.

Ward, who has a troubled background and mental health problems was told in 2006 he would serve a minimum of 10 months - he has been in prison ever since.

His sister April says he has been struggling with life in prison and is worried about him trying to harm himself.

She told BBC radio: ““He cuts his wrist, he burned a tattoo off his body and a couple of times he burned himself.

“I think we will get the phone call that Jimmy has taken his own life.”

IPPs have since been abolished but Ward and thousands of other prisoners are still imprisoned under the system introduced by Labour in 2003.

Those jailed under the guidelines remain in jail unless they can prove they are no longer a threat to a parole board.

Many remain trapped inside jail because they are unable to prove they are no longer a threat to the public.

April Ward added: “James is not a monster he did a silly thing when he was 18 - now he is 31.

“Every three years he gets knocked back by the parole board

She continued: “If he did the same thing today he would only do 10 months - there’s no such thing as an IPP so why should my brother still be in prison after 10 years.”

Initially targeted at fewer than 1,000 serious offenders, the IPP system was used to sentence about 6,000 people, many for minor crimes.

According to the BBC, 4,000 remain in jail, and 400 of these have served more than five times the minimum term.

They may have to wait years to get a parole review, or are unable to get on courses to deal with their behaviour.

MP Kenneth Clarke, as justice secretary, abolished IPP sentences in 2012,

He said: “The trouble is this ridiculous burden on the parole board of saying they can only release people if it’s proved to them that they’re not really a danger to the public.

“No prisoner can prove that – you never know when people are going to lose their control, what’s going to happen to them when they’re released.”

Justice Secretary Michael Gove has asked for a review of how IPP prisoners are treated.