Indefinite sentence prisoner loses Parole Board bid to be freed

A prisoner serving a long-abolished indefinite jail sentence has lost his Parole Board bid to be released.

Nicholas Bidar is one of thousands of offenders still behind bars years beyond their minimum tariff after being given Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences – which have no release date – despite the punishment being scrapped more than a decade ago.

Earlier this month the 36-year-old, speaking from maximum security jail HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire where he is being held, told a public parole hearing he was living in “hell” as he begged to be freed.

He became the first prisoner serving this kind of sentence to have his parole review heard in public after laws changed in a bid to remove the secrecy around the process.

A summary of a Parole Board decision, published on Wednesday, said: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was not satisfied that release at this point would be safe for the protection of the public.

“Nor did the panel recommend to the Secretary of State that Mr Bidar should be transferred to an open prison.

“The panel could not be satisfied that his risk of absconding from an open prison would be low or that Mr Bidar’s risk to the public had reduced to a level that would be compatible with a place in an open prison.”

In 2009 Bidar, then 21, was jailed for a string of robberies and using a gun to resist arrest. He is still behind bars despite the eight-year minimum tariff set as part of his indefinite sentence expiring in 2017.

He told the parole panel he fired a gun at police officers “not at them, just to scare them off” but insisted he was “not that person anymore”, telling the hearing: “I’m not going to go out and commit some crazy violent thing. I just want to go home.

“The risk of me ever committing a violent offence is not because I’ve been paroled, it’s because I’m still in prison.

“I’m trying so hard and they’re making me feel like what’s the point.”

In 2012, Bidar tried to carry out a robbery when he escaped from custody, telling the hearing: “I wouldn’t run away now because it’s been so long – I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.”

Officials questioned during proceedings said they did not think Bidar met the test for release or for being moved to an open prison, recalling his most recent episode of violence in 2021 when he assaulted three prison officers, who had to deploy pava spray to subdue him.

Bidar made “inappropriate comments and behaviour” towards female prison staff throughout his sentence, the panel heard.

Officials also highlighted incidents where he had been drinking, gambling and found to be in possession of weapons while behind bars.

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.

Although parole judges do not have a role in determining which category of prison inmates are held in, the panel considering his case did recommend the Justice Secretary and officials take “urgent steps” to see if Bidar can be moved to a lower security jail at some stage and advised his case is reviewed again in a year’s time.

The parole documents said: “The panel considered that Mr Bidar’s category A status is now interfering with his potential to bring about and sustain change in the longer term.

“The panel recommended that immediate action be taken.

“It noted that categorisation is not a matter for the Parole Board but considered that Mr Bidar faced an unusual situation where much of his IPP sentence has seen him remain as a category A prisoner.

“The panel recommended urgent steps be taken to establish an achievable pathway towards re-categorisation, that regular reviews should take place where possible to help facilitate this, that if Mr Bidar is able to secure a reduction in categorisation that he should be moved to a lower security prison where he can then continue with his sentence plan.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We have reduced the number of unreleased IPP prisoners by three-quarters since we scrapped the sentence in 2012 and have taken decisive action to help those still in custody to progress towards release.

“Recategorisation decisions are taken by prison governors based on thorough risk assessments.”