The family of a man who was given a controversial type of prison sentence after robbing a mobile phone have hope that he could finally be released.

Clara White, who lives in Greenmount, has spent years of her life campaigning for her brother Thomas White against an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence.

IPPs were a type of indeterminate sentence courts could impose after being introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Thomas was handed an IPP sentence in 2012 and ordered to serve a minimum of two years, only a few months before IPPs were abolished.

But thousands like Thomas are still imprisoned under an IPP with no sign of a release date.

Now aged 39, the dad-of-one has now been in jail for more than 10 years.

His mental health has taken a huge blow, leaving him with psychosis, his son Kayden, 13, without a dad, and the family "no hope". 

Two years ago Kayden wrote a letter to the government asking for his dad  to be released.

Bury Times: Kayden with the letter he wrote to the government asking for his dad to be releasedKayden with the letter he wrote to the government asking for his dad to be released (Image: Clara White)

Having spent years trying to raise awareness, a year-long Justice Select Committee inquiry has now found IPPs to be flawed with hopes Thomas may be released soon.

Speaking about her brother's sentence, Clara, 40, said: “It was originally rolled out for dangerous offenders like terrorists and paedophiles, but nobody really understood what it was.

“It’s 99 years and the chances are, you won't live it out, you'll die in prison.

"It got dished out to offenders thousands of times and unfortunately, my brother was one of them.”

She added: “Thomas shouldn’t have done it (the theft)

“I know he shouldn’t have done it, and there’s no excuse.

But there was no weapon, no violence and he was drunk so why has he had to serve 11 years (including time in custody)?

“We thought he was losing his mind when he told us, I said there's no way you could have gotten that and then a year went by and my brother was no closer to being released.

“I blamed him, assumed he was messing about in prison, I started to look it up.

“That’s when I found out it had been abolished and the only way, he was getting out was through a progressive rehabilitation course that the prison didn’t have.

"Having been moved around 16 times to various prisons, when at a facility with the courses available, he was put at the bottom of the list.

"Those serving life sentences were the priority for rehabilitation and because an IPP sentence is more than life, my brother was pushed back yet again.

“As time started to go by, like any human being who lives with hopelessness, he was feeling like some sort of Rubik's Cube, a puzzle being turned and turned, they couldn't prove that there he was no longer a risk because they didn’t have the courses…we went round and round in circles.”

Clara explained that some prisoners given an IPP were released, but due to probation problems, she said there was a backlog, and they would never get around "to people like my brother".

Having served so long, knowing the end of his sentence may never be lived out, her brother's health began to deteriorate.

She said: “He became really, really mentally unstable.

“He was never an enhanced prisoner or anything like that because he could never access courses to prove he was, it just got knocked back year in, year out.

“Eventually, one day my brother rang.

“I answered the phone, and he would only talk in Roman numerals

Bury Times: Clara speaking on IPP Unintended Consequences Clara speaking on IPP Unintended Consequences (Image: Public)

“His mental health was deteriorating so badly, and officers would class it as bad behaviour and segregate him but it wasn't bad behaviour it was his mental health.

“Then he was segregated again, and again, and again…

“It was him and his Bible, no-one else, no other faces, names, people, just him and his Bible.

“That’s when he started to believe that he was Jesus.”

She added: “He would ring up and scream 'help me' and put down the phone. I couldn’t stop hearing that scream.

“I’ve taken on my brother’s torture and I was wiped out. I spent so many years campaigning and it’s been difficult, no-one knew what an IPP sentence was let alone how to help.”

Having been campaigning for around four years, Clara contacted Bury North MP James Daly’s office around three years ago and shared what had happened.

Bury Times: Clara and her brother as children Clara and her brother as children (Image: Public)

After trying and failing to take the campaign onto political grounds, the feeling Clara got when Mr Daly sent her an email, officially stating that an inquiry had opened into IPPs was near disbelief.

IPPs were examined by the Justice Select Committee, which found that inadequate provision of support services inside and outside of prison has led to a "recall merry-go-round", with almost half of prisoners currently serving an IPP sentence having been released previously, causing the "human traffic jam".

Clara said: “We made a documentary, we protested, we fundraised for legal fees.

“We have evidence from psychiatrists, families, victims anyone who has been involved in this inhumane miscarriage of justice.  

“Every single of those prisoners needs resentencing but after hearing that the enquiry found it irredeemably flawed.

"I cried with joy for two days.

“I want to thank James Daly for his consistent support, he has shown me and my family nothing but dedication and sympathy.

“The Justice Select Committee have shown this has been an injustice.

"My family and I have been tortured for many years as well as thousands of other families.

Bury Times: Clara, James Daly and other families campaigning against IPP Clara, James Daly and other families campaigning against IPP (Image: Public)

“We are now exploring whether there is a legal case for gross negligence for my brother."

Margret White, mum of Clara and Thomas, said: "I'm the legal guardian of Thomas' son and I've lived this sentence.

"It's taken me and my children to very very dark frustrating places where there's just no hope or support for us.

"Is it right that a child should not see his father?

"He only sees him through old photos and phone calls. It's just soul-destroying.

"I've lived with a broken heart every day, I could go on and on about how it affects us but that just leads to more heartache.

"When James Daly took it to the Justice Select Committee and they came back with their findings to resentenced; for the first time in years it's given me and my family hope.

"I would also like to thank James Daly and co-workers for all his help in showing awareness of this sentence he has been there for my daughter, son and even my grandson when no one else would even give us a call back. God bless him."

James Daly, a member of the committee, added: “This has been an incredibly important report and I wholeheartedly support the re-sentencing of IPP prisoners.

“For years the families of these prisoners, such as Clara have been facing great pain.

"I would like to pay tribute to Clara for her tireless campaigning and hope to see the government consider and implement the recommendations of the Committee’s report at the earliest opportunity.”

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Rob Butler MP said: “I’m very carefully considering the recommendations, that is something we are doing very speedily and as soon we’ve come up with a conclusion the Justice Select Committee will receive my response.”

The decision is expected to be made by the end of November.

Clara is now looking at launching a community interest group with other IPP family members to generate funding and request another inquiry as to how the lengthy sentences were allowed to happen. 

She has now also been able to arrange a meeting with her brother's prison minister for a transfer to an outside hospital as she believes he is no longer fit fto be in prison.