Man, 27, given indefinite sentence for trying to kill himself in fire could die in jail

Man, 27, given indefinite sentence for trying to kill himself in fire could die in jail

 

A 27-year-old who tried to kill himself by burning down his flat is still in prison ten years later and may never see the light of day.

Lawrence Owen had just turned 17 when he lost three members of his close family to cancer in a matter of months.

The enthusiastic gardener struggled to cope with the loss and fell into a spiral of depression that culminated in him trying to take his own life.

As the fires raged around him Lawrence sat there, hoping he would be consumed by the blaze for a few moments until he had a sudden change of heart.

He escaped the fire, called the emergency services and confessed to what he had done.

Click here to read more about Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences.

Several months later the Mottingham, south east London teenager was handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence with a minimum tariff of two years.

What neither he nor his mum Alison Miles knew at the time was that the now abolished sentence could see him locked up for the rest of his life.

“I didn’t have a clue what IPP was,” Alison told MirrorOnline.

“I thought it was something to do with mental health. Then I came out and Googled it and thought ‘oh s***’.

“After his first parole hearing, after four years, that’s when it really sunk in.”

Do you know someone who has been affected by an IPP sentence? Email webnews@mirror.co.uk

IPPs are indefinite terms introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to keep dangerous prisoners who did not warrant life stretches away from the public.

They were abolished in 2012 by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who described IPPs as a ‘stain’ on the system.

Those serving IPP sentences already were not released and some 2,039 remain inside UK prisons, with no idea of when or if they will be released and with 94% having served more than their minimum term.

While many of those on IPPs have committed serious, dangerous crimes, many others have been convicted of a series of “lesser” offences – such as robbery.

Whether an extremely violent offender or suicidal teenager who made a reckless decision, the only way out is to convince a bi-annual parole board you’re no longer a threat to society.

With many prisons not running the courses required to pass parole, coupled with the crushing effect an indeterminate sentence can have on a person’s mental health, release is a distance prospect for many.

In the past three years Lawrence’s mental health problems have become much worse.

“In the last three years he has been at his worst,” Alison said.

“We have nearly lost him twice. He doesn’t think he wants to live.

“He cut both the main arteries in both his arms on Christmas Day.

“There’s not much hope, but thankfully he still has both his arms.

“He has bouts of depression and he suffers with severe epilepsy.

“He has half an hour fits. These problems have been a lot worse since he went to prison, when he realised ‘I’m not getting out’.”

As bleak as Lawrence’s prospects are now, he retains a degree of hope.

Before he was locked up ten years ago he was an enthusiastic student and a lover of music.

Spells in some of the UK’s toughest prisons – including Belmarsh, Pentonville and Swaleside – have failed to completely dampen his lust for life.

Alison continued: “His next parole hearing is at the beginning of August.

“I am hopeful for all of them, but it depends on the parole board.

“He wants to come home. Him and another ex-prisoner who is out now want to set up their business, to do with valeting cars.”

Whatever the next chapter of Lawrence’s story is, Alison is certain of one thing – that IPPs needs to be reformed.

“I think it’s disgusting,” she said.

“I think IPP prisoners should be released or resentenced. They should re-sentence them or they should be given a release date.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Those serving IPP sentences were deemed by a judge to pose a high risk to the public and will be released after they demonstrate to the Parole Board they are no longer a threat.”

A petition calling for changes to the IPP can be found here.

The Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or head to the website to find your nearest branch. You matter.

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