Sutton prisoner trapped in jail for 11 years to be released

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A Sutton man who is still in prison 11 years after he was given a sentence of just 10 months is to be released, the Parole board has said.

James Ward was initially jailed for a year after assaulting his father but near the end of the sentence he set fire to his prison mattress and was handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) for arson.

Ward, who has a troubled background and mental health problems was told in 2006 he would serve a minimum of 10 months - he has been in prison ever since.

IPPs have since been abolished but Ward and thousands of other prisoners are still imprisoned under the system introduced by Labour in 2003. Those jailed under the guidelines remain in jail unless they can prove they are no longer a threat to a parole board.

Many remain trapped inside jail because they are unable to prove they are no longer a threat to the public.

The Parole Board said it was working to find Mr Ward a hostel and mental health support in the coming weeks.

Mr Ward’s sister April said: “We are over the moon, my dad can’t stop grinning.

“My dad hasn’t grinned for years. I can’t stop crying or smiling.

“James is not a risk to the public, he’s only ever been a risk to himself, and with the right support we can get him there.”

She added: “It’s been really difficult for the whole family but with the support of myself, the family and mental health services we should be able to give him the support he needs and come out of this nightmare.

“We’re just waiting to find somewhere for him to be released into.”

Ms Ward told Radio 4’s Today programme she had yet to speak to her brother about his release and was unsure of whether he even knew that he was to be freed.

“He’s got no hope. He will be very surprised of the release today because it’s taken over 10 years for this result to happen.”

The Parole Board has confirmed his release, but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has not commented on the case.

Ms Ward said she was “very confident” her brother will be able to get the help he needs once he is freed - including support from mental health services as well as the stability and love of his family.

She added: “I hope that IPP prisoners who are way over tariff can now also be released. I don’t like to think about what would have happened if they’d decided against letting [James] out. He had given up.”