IPP prisoner tells landmark public parole hearing that sentence is ‘hell’

A prisoner serving a long-abolished indefinite jail sentence told his public parole hearing that he is living in “hell”, as he begged to be released.

Nicholas Bidar, 36, is one of thousands of offenders still languishing behind bars years beyond their minimum tariff after being handed Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences – which have no release date – despite the punishment being scrapped more than a decade ago.

On Monday, Bidar 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.

HMP Long Lartin Riots
Bidar is serving time at HMP Long Lartin (Jacob King/PA)

Sat facing the panel wearing a white long-sleeved sweater, Bidar told its members he would “not commit any offences in the future”.

The 36-year-old added: “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.”

The proceedings took place at maximum security jail HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, where he is being held, and were watched by reporters and members of the public at the Royal Courts of Justice in London via a live stream.

“I’m not a nutter, 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 2009 Bidar, then 21, was jailed for a string of robberies and firing a gun at police officers while resisting arrest.

He is still behind bars despite the eight-year minimum tariff set as part of his indefinite sentence expiring in 2017.

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 the 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.”

In 2012, Bidar escaped from custody and committed an attempted robbery while absconded.

Bidar told the panel: “I wouldn’t run away now because it’s been so long – I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.”

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 pava spray 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.

Asked why this was the case, the prison offender manager replied: “I think he does that because he wants to feel he has a special relationship with staff.

“He wants to be liked. He needs to feel that people like and respect him and give him the kudos that he feels he’s due.”

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.”

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.

A prison officer who had worked with Bidar said the only time he was concerned that he would be on the cusp of any violence is “when under the influence of hooch”.

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.

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