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‘It’s hell’: Prisoner serving long-abolished indefinite sentence bids to be released

A prisoner serving an indefinite jail term – a type of sentence abolished more than a decade ago – has described his continued detainment as “hell”, as he bids for his release.

Nicholas Bidar, 36, is one of thousands of offenders still behind bars years beyond their minimum tariff after being handed Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences.

The sentences – which are different from the more serious Whole Life Orders (WLO) – were implemented in 2005 under the then-Labour government but scrapped as a sentencing option in 2012 under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

However, because of the decision not to make this retrospective, many of those who were inside when IPPs were scrapped have stayed inside.

In 2009, a 22-year-old Bidar was sentenced to an indefinite sentence with an eight-year minimum tariff for a string of robberies and firing a gun at police officers while resisting arrest.

He also escaped from custody in 2012 and committed an attempted robbery while absconding.

The minimum term of Bidar’s sentence expired in 2017 – but he has remained in prison.

On Monday, he became the first prisoner serving an IPP to have his parole review heard in public after laws changed in a bid to remove the secrecy around the process.

A panel of Parole Board members will decide whether he should be freed from jail, moved to a lower security prison or remain behind bars.

During Monday’s hearing at maximum security jail HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, Bidar described the impacts of the indefinite sentence.

A sign at HMP Long Lartin, near Worcester, where order has been restored after a siege at the prison last night, when a group of inmates took over part of a building, the Ministry of Justice said.
Image: HMP Long Lartin, near Worcester. File pic

Bidar said: “This sentence is affecting my whole family. This is my one chance and I’m aware of it. I’m living in the worst place you can possibly live. I hate it here.

“Every day is torture. It’s just hell.

“I just want one chance – if I mess it up, it’s on me. My mum’s getting old, it’s just hurting me so much.

“I’m not a nutter, I’m not going to go out and commit some crazy violent thing. I just want to go home.”

Asked by the parole panel why he committed the offences, Bidar replied: “I was young. It was probably to do with everything – lifestyle, associates, being immature.”

He added: “I look back at it now as if it wasn’t even me. It’s as if I’m in jail for someone else’s crimes. I’m not that person anymore.”

Asked at what point he made the decision to discharge a firearm at police officers, Bidar replied: “I wanted to scare them to stop them chasing us. I fired it – not at them, just to scare them off.”

However, giving evidence on Monday, a prison offender manager said they thought Bidar did not meet the test for release or for being moved to an open prison.

They said the most recent physical violence Bidar had committed against staff was in 2021, when he assaulted three prison officers, who had to deploy pepper spray-like liquid to subdue him.

A decision on Bidar’s case will be made at a later date, with a summary of the recommendation typically published around 14 days after the hearing has concluded.

The prison offender manager, who was not named, told the panel: “When I look at the case notes, there has been more negative than positive for each year – which is disappointing.

“He can be a pleasant gentleman when in that frame of mind, he can also be very rude and petulant when he’s challenged.”

They added that “inappropriate comments and behaviour” towards female prison staff had run through his whole sentence.

Bidar’s lawyer Dean Kingham told the panel: “We don’t have any evidence that any of the verbal comments, while unpleasant, has crossed the serious harm threshold.”

Bidar said the reports of his comments were “not nice to hear”, adding that he may have said “cheeky or rude” things while in prison.

He added: “I don’t think it deserves to keep me here another two years in a high-security jail, treating me like I’m some crazy murderer.”

Read more from Sky News:
Cost of keeping some people in prison tops £1bn
Ministers ‘using misleading’ claims to justify indefinite detention
Inside the lives of IPP prisoners serving sentences of ‘psychological torture’

The prison offender manager added that there had been incidents in prison when Bidar had been gambling, in possession of weapons, and of alcohol misuse.

The public section of the hearing concluded on Monday afternoon, and it will resume on Tuesday morning in private.

IPP sentences were introduced in 2005 to prevent serious offenders who did not warrant a life sentence from being released when they still posed a danger to the public.

But despite being scrapped in 2012, around 3,000 criminals remain behind bars after being given such a sentence.

The government has since pledged that hundreds of rehabilitated offenders could see an end to their sentences by 2025 amid rule changes, which may mean their licence period comes to an end earlier.

Sky News Source