A man who was jailed for robbing a bike aged 17 has now served longer than a murderer or rapist.

Wayne Bell had punched another lad and took his bike at a park in south Manchester when he was spotted by a passing police patrol.

He was jailed in March 2007, and today, thanks to a now discredited and abolished type of sentence, he is still behind bars.

Once a strapping 6ft 2in lad of about 15 stone, the now 29-year-old has lost a lot of weight and is all skin and bone, according to his family.

His heartbroken father Carl said Wayne has never had a life – and all he really wants is to get a girlfriend, a job and live a normal life, reports Manchester Evening News.

But his hopes of being released have faded over the years as he is continually knocked back by the parole board.

Wayne was among the first convicts to be handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences (IPP).

The sentence was brought in in 2005 by then Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The public, press and even some judges – confronted with this new tool – struggled to understand them at first.

Those who got them were handed minimum terms, often only of a few years, after which they had to convince the Parole Board they were safe to be released.

If they weren't deemed safe, they remained behind bars.

The problem was IPP prisoners weren't given access to courses so they could prove they were rehabilitated.

So they lost hope and many of them kicked off behind bars.

Wayne Bell was one of them.

He was handed the youth equivalent of an IPP (a Detention for Public Protection sentence) at Manchester Crown Court and told he would have to serve four years before the Parole Board would consider his release.

It is thought he asked for a string of other crimes to be taken into consideration.

Successive Parole Board hearings deemed that Wayne, now aged 29, couldn't be managed safely in the community and so he has remained in custody ever since.

As he has lost hope, he has got involved with fights. And with each fight, his chance of impressing the Parole Board diminishes.

Some 8,711 IPP sentences were dished out between 2005 and 2012, contributing to a huge rise in the prison population.

Many of those were for repeat violent or sexual offenders who posed a continuing danger to the public. But some, relatively petty offenders, like Wayne Bell, were caught in the net – and may never escape it.

Your average prisoner serves half their sentence. That means Wayne has served the equivalent of a 24 year sentence, longer than many killers, rapists, major drug dealers, paedophiles and organised criminals.

To compare, John Worboys, the 'black cab' rapist who sexually assaulted 12 women in London, was jailed in 2009. He would have been released this year by the Parole Board, had victims not complained.

Meanwhile, Brian Reader, the career criminal who masterminded the £14m Hatton Gardens jewellery heist, was released last summer – after just three years behind bars.

Seven years ago IPPs were abolished on the back of a European Court ruling that they breached human rights – on the grounds that prisons had failed to provide inmates access to the rehabilitation courses required to demonstrate to the Parole Board that they were safe to be released.

But the abolition wasn't retrospective, so today, even though more and more are being released, there remain 2,489 prisoners still locked up on IPP sentences.

Wayne Bell's case is all the more unusual because he was, in the eyes of the law, still a child when he got his IPP.

With any hope he might be finally let go ebbing away with each passing year, Wayne became a problem prisoner.

His family, who haven't seen him since before Christmas, invited an M.E.N. reporter into their home in Burnage.

Wayne's dad Carl, a softly spoken man who has been worn down over the years in the face of a wall of bureaucracy, still hopes his lad will be freed one day.

He recalled the moment he saw his son was handed the sentence at Manchester Crown Court.

"I honestly thought he would be coming out. I thought he would be in there a couple of years. I didn't know he would be in there this long. It's a disgrace.

"Wayne has watched murderers and rapists come and go in and out of prison. He just hit someone and took their bike. The sentence really doesn't fit the crime," said Carl.

He went on: "He's never had a girlfriend. He's never had a life at all really. There are probably kids who have done the same as him but they had a chance in life, got married and had their own kids.

"It looks like he'll never have that chance. All his friends are married now and bringing up kids, even the ones who were giving him all that peer pressure at the time they were growing up."

Wayne, a bright and polite child who played the trumpet, wanted to become a mechanic, but started getting into trouble aged 14 or 15 while he was at Burnage High School. He was expelled.

He had 'got in with the wrong crowd' and committed crimes like stealing a TV and a games console, say his family.

His mother Diane Bell, 54, a community carer, said: "He was being a nuisance but nothing major.

"He did get in lots of trouble."

A passing police patrol witnessed him attacking another boy and then taking his bike, the crime which ended in his IPP. The trouble was that he had previous.

"At the start he actually thought he would be getting out soon. He went to the gym. He was hopeful and we were writing letter after letter to try and get him out.

"He thought we would be able to get him out. He was given hope and hope was taken away," said Carl.

He became a prison 'listener', an ear for new inmates to talk to and embarked on a course for car mechanics.

But he got involved in fights in prison. Other inmates knew he was vulnerable as an IPP prisoner and 'targeted' him, for instance by trying to take his toilet roll, his family say.

"He tried to defend himself and got sent down the block for it," according to Wayne's brother Carl, 32,  a computer salesman.

"When people saw he was on an IPP they have targeted him because of if they got into trouble he was going to get into more trouble than they were because they were ordinary prisoners who couldn't get more time," said Carl.

Every two years he went before the parole board but each time he was turned down amid continuing concerns about whether he was safe to be released. His probation officer also thought he wasn't safe to be released, according to his family.

The family wrote to their local MP, Jeff Smith, who took up their case last year and received assurances from the Ministry of Justice that, although the parole process had been halted in Wayne's case, it would resume again.

"I am aware this is a very difficult time for you all and I would be grateful if you could keep me updates about any developments," the MP told the family.

"He's got to the stage now where he doesn't care anymore. He doesn't want to be here," said said dad Carl, who went on: "I blame the system.

"I blame the government because they know what's going on. He should be at home with us. It's the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about when you go to bed. It would be nice to see him live a little bit of life.

"He hit someone and took their bike, but the sentence really doesn't fit the crime."

Brother Carl added: "It's the hopelessness behind it. Every avenue we have been down there's always a block in the road…  He didn't rape or murder anybody. That's what that sentence was for. There's very little of him left but we just want to have him home.

"He's said he doesn't want anything in life. He just wants a girlfriend and a job and a car. That's all."

Wayne has had four parole board hearings and officials have indicated on the last one he asked not to be released. His family say as far as they were concerned he was desperate to be freed.

Within two years of introduction, 3,000 people were handed IPPs – far more than had been anticipated by the Home Office.

Judges were often obliged to hand down such sentences if the person in the dock had committed one of 153 specified violent or sexual offences and if they had committed one previous specified offence. Judges could only depart from this in rare cases.

The Howard League, which campaigns for prison reform, concluded in 2013 that IPPs were 'poorly planned and implemented and resulted in unjust punishments, particularly those sentenced prior to 2008'. It urged the government to review IPP prisoners who remained behind bars.

It surveyed 103 senior prison governors and the vast majority reported IPPs had a negative impact on both prisoners and staff, in part because they didn't have the resources available to run rehabilitation courses required to demonstrate that inmates were safe to be released.

The parole board struggled to hear the increased number of hearings.

The prison population rose significantly.

The IPP was finally abolished in 2012 with the then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke stating the sentence had been 'inconsistent', used far more than intended and had proved 'unjust' for many recipients.

In 2017, Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick told the justice committee of the House of Commons that IPP offenders were being released but that more than half were being recalled, sometimes only for minor breaches of the terms of their release.

Wayne Bell had been scheduled to go before another Parole Board hearing but it was cancelled last year due to concerns about his health.

A spokesman for the Parole Board said they could not comment on individual cases but added in a statement: "The role of the Parole Board in all cases – including prisoners sentenced to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) – is to determine if someone is safe to release.

"This is carried out with great care and public safety is the number one priority.

"While a number of IPPs remain in the system, the board is working to progress as many as it can, when it is safe to do so.

"The board has made significant progress to reduce the number of IPP prisoners in custody from a peak of 6,080 in 2012 to 2,489 by 31 December 2018."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Prisoners serving a Detention for Public Protection sentence committed a serious violent offence and were deemed by a judge to pose a high risk of serious harm to the public.

"All such prisoners who have served their tariff have the opportunity to apply to the independent Parole Board and demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to society."

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