A man who has been imprisoned for more than a decade for stealing a mobile phone is stuck in ‘heartbreaking’ limbo after the government decided not to review a now abolished law.
Thomas White from Bury was given a minimum sentence of two years when he was convicted of street robbery after stealing a mobile phone from a couple in Manchester city centre. He is one of nearly 3,000 prisoners serving an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence, which sets a minimum but not a maximum term in prison.
IPP sentences were designed to protect the public from prolific and dangerous offenders, but were scrapped later by the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, in 2012, because they disproportionately punished those who committed low level offences.
The father-of-one was told to undergo a series of progressive programs which are part of the requirements for release under an IPP, but his family claim many of the prisons he has been transferred to over the past 11 years do not have the necessary courses available.
Though IPP sentences were abolished in 2012, many incarcerated people like Thomas are still imprisoned under the now defunct law. Last year, the Justice Select Committee found that IPP sentences were ‘irredeemably flawed’ after a year-long inquiry. It recommended the government re-sentence all IPP prisoners.
However, the government has made the decision not to review open-ended prison sentences. Speaking to ITV News, Clara White, Thomas’ sister has spent years campaigning for his release and said she ‘cried with joy for two days’ after the Justice Select Committee ruling — but says her family’s hopes have now been shattered.
She continued: “I really am totally and completely devastated. I don’t understand how they can dismiss this and although we are shattered, IPP families won’t stop fighting.”
Clara says her brother’s mental state and physical health has rapidly declined and she has also suffered PTSD through her fight for her brother. She added: “Thomas spoke to me on the phone last week and you can hear it in his voice, he doesn’t think he will ever be released, and this is going to have a detrimental effect.
“His hair is falling out in patches and he can’t put on any weight, one time my mum went to visit, and she had to ask the guard to point out her son because he was so unrecognisable.
“He has lost all hope, this sentence has had a huge impact on our family and to have his hope taken away like that is heartbreaking.”
Despite the trauma, Clara has said that she will continue to fight her brother’s sentence and has sent his case to Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, a Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In response to the findings in the report by the Justice Select Committee, the government accepted or partially accepted some of its recommendations, including a review of the Ministry of Justice and the Prison and Probation Service IPP action plan and improved mental health support for IPP prisoners. However, it rejected the call for an immediate review of all IPP sentences.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The government’s long-held view is that this would give rise to an unacceptable risk to public protection and that the IPP action plan, suitably updated, remains the best option by which these offenders can progress towards a safe release.
“As such, the government has no plans to conduct a resentencing exercise.”
In response, Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob Neill, said the committee had been ‘not only disappointed but genuinely surprised’ by the rejection of some of its recommendations and feared that IPP Prisoners ‘will remain held in an unsustainable limbo’.
He said: “The committee recognised that addressing this issue would not be easy – that’s why we recommended that a small, time-limited committee of experts be set up to advise on the resentencing exercise. We are not only disappointed with this government response but genuinely surprised.
“There is now a growing consensus that a resentencing exercise is the only way to comprehensively address the injustice of IPP sentences and that this can be done without prejudicing public protection.
“Our report said this nettle needed to be grasped by all three branches of the state – government, Parliament and the judiciary. But the government has not listened. The nettle has not been grasped and, as a result, these people will remain held in an unsustainable limbo.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Protecting the public is our number one priority and resentencing all IPP offenders risks undermining this by releasing dangerous prisoners into our communities.
“Our current approach has already reduced the number of unreleased IPP prisoners by three-quarters since 2012 and new laws mean their sentences are reviewed 10 years after release.
“We are also now changing the rules so IPP offenders with five years’ good behaviour in the community will have their continued supervision reviewed automatically.”
Manchester’s historic Portico Library awarded huge grant to secure its future
The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building
The Grade II-listed Portico Library will receive almost half a million pounds to transform the historic building.
The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building – a much-loved gem standing proudly on Mosley Street.
Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the £453,000 will see the treasured library undergo a huge revamp and preserve its book collection.
During its development, local communities in Manchester will be invited to help work on the project.
With particular focus on environmentally sustainable architectural plans, it aims to unite all three original floors of The Portico Library for the first time in 100 years.
The ground floor will be transformed into a ‘Northern bookshop’ which will hold educational activities, with areas for dining, exhibitions areas and meeting spaces.
While the upper floors will showcase the library’s incredible book collection and archives, which includes the first edition of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
John Carpenter, Chair of the Portico Library, said: “The news that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting The Portico Library’s bold scheme to open up and share its extraordinary heritage and collection, to Manchester residents and visitors, is a major cultural signal to Manchester, the North and the UK.”
He added: “This visionary project, years in the making, fulfils our mission of working with the many people in Manchester to explore, share and celebrate their diverse stories and the city’s literary and global heritage.
“Embracing creativity, collaboration and inclusivity, the project will unlock the Library’s past to plan for the future. We would like to thank the National Lottery players who have made it possible to realise our vision.”
Handwritten note with ‘plan to kill’ Brianna Ghey found in accused girl’s room
The note was found during a police search
A handwritten note with alleged details of a ‘plan to kill’ transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was found by police in the bedroom of Girl X.
The crumpled paper note (pictured) was discovered by officers during a search conducted at the accused’s home in March, more than a month after the tragic death of the 16-year-old.
Brianna was found after being stabbed 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park, Warrington, earlier this year.
The teenager was discovered by dog walkers just after 3pm on Saturday, February 11th.
Girl X from Warrington and Boy Y from Leigh both deny murder. During the trial, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard how Girl X sent a picture of the handwritten note to Boy Y on February 3rd.
The note began with the header: “Saturday 11th February 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey.”
It continued: “Meet Boy Y at wooden posts 1pm. Walk down to library…bus stop. Wait until Brianna gets off bus then the 3 of us walk to Linear Park.
“Go to the pipe/tunnel area. I say code word to Boy Y. He stabs her in the back as I stab her in the stomach. Boy Y drags the body into the area. We both cover up the area with logs etc.”
In her opening speech, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC told the jury: “It is clearly, the prosecution say, a plan to kill Brianna Ghey.” During the same search on March 17th, officers found a note found in a drawer headlined ‘plan’.
Details in the note continued: “Give them alcohol with sleeping pills.
“Slit throat. I kill her. Dismember body. Place pieces in bin bags, bury bags 7ft underground, bones including.
“Get her to go to Linear park, go to the hidden spot near the bridge I usually go to. Someone jumps out and restrains her (plan B). I kill her.”
During the search, police also found a computer tablet and a black notebook.
Jurors heard that written in the notebook was the word ‘anarchy’ on one page, and on another there was a list of ‘what is right and wrong’. Another page had a ‘spider diagram’ with ‘good and ‘evil’ in the middle.
The ‘legs’ of the diagram lead to the words ‘forgiveness, justice, morality, good, suffering, evil, sin and free will’, the court heard.
On another page there were the words ‘Valentine’s gifts’ and on another the words ‘revision HW’. Prosecutor Cheryl Mottram said: “Homework, perhaps.”
Written on another page were the words ‘types of serial killers’, with a list under the heading.
Words underneath included ‘organised and disorganised’, ‘mass murder’, ‘psychotic’, ‘organised crime’ and ‘copy cat’. On another page were the words ‘films’, and ‘faves’.
Another page was headed with ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ and then a ‘list of characteristics’. There were also notes about ‘John Wayne Gacy’, the ‘killer clown’.
The notebook also had written inside it a note which read ‘potential threats’ and ‘people that need to go’.
Another page had Boy Y’s name on it followed by a ‘list of qualities or attributes’. Underneath was written the words ‘trustworthy, funny, sociopath, good sense of humour, very very smart, genius level and not sociable’.
Officers also recovered a black purse inside a ‘cubby hole’ with a handwritten note inside.
The note read: “Friday 11th November, attitudes to forgiveness.” Jurors were told the note contained two names, including Gee Walker.
“Forgives her son Anthony’s killer,” it read. And continued: “Julie Nicholson, who could not forgive the terrorists who killed her daughter Jenny.”
Three handwritten notes were also found on the floor of the room. One read ‘serial killer facts’, with a ‘list of facts relating to serial killers’ including ‘killing themselves in police custody can be a final act of control’, ‘hedonism’ and ‘power and control orientated’.
Other notes made were ‘cruelty to animals’, ‘bed wetting past age of five’, ‘USA has the most serial killers’, ‘lack of empathy for others’ and ‘can be superficially charming’.
One note read ‘Dr Harold Frederick Shipman, aka Dr Death’, followed by the words ‘classification, serial killer’.
And jurors were told there was also a note in relation to ‘Richard Ramirez, or the ‘Night Stalker’.
The trial, which began on November 27th at Manchester Crown Court, continues.
Hugh Grant and wife Anna donate £20,000 ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’
A lovely Christmas gift to help those in need
Hugh Grant and his wife Anna have donated £20,000 to Burnley plumber James Anderson.
Dubbed ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’, James Anderson set up Depher, which stands for Disabled and Elderly, Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response, back in 2017.
Originally a plumber who offered services to those in need for free of charge, Mr Anderson now runs the community interest company.
Depher provides plumbing work free of charge for those who are struggling in the cost of living crisis.
Since it began in 2017, Depher has helped more than half a million people across the country and relies on donations from the public.
Now, Hollywood actor Hugh Grant and his wife Anna, who both arrived in Manchester on Thursday December 7th to attend the Chanel Métiers d’Art fashion show, have made a donation of £20,000 to help those in need this winter.
The couple have also donated tens of thousands of pounds to the Depher cause in the past.
Anderson called the kind donation a ‘Christmas gift’ and said it brings the total they have donated to £75,000.
Sharing the news on the Depher Twitter page, Mr Anderson wrote: “After speaking privately to @HackedOffHugh and Anna Grant I have permission to share their wonderful #Christmas gift to @Depheruk.
“This wonderful and humbling donation of £20,000.00 will give hope to thousands of people, families and children, especially with the #CostOfLivingCrisis.
“They both have my lifetime of respect and love.”