A man has spent almost half of his life in prison and may never be released due to a failed robbery attempt when he was a teenager.
Danny Weatherson, from Scotswood, Newcastle, was 17-years-old when he and a group of his friends tried to steal a coat and a mobile phone from somebody on their estate.
While the bid was unsuccessful and no one was hurt in the incident, Danny’s history of minor, non-violent offences landed him in front of a crown court judge.
It was decided that he should serve an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence, with a minimum term of 15 months.
What neither he nor his dad knew at the time was that Danny may never taste freedom again.
Although they are now abolished, the only route out of prison for the more than 2,000 people serving IPP sentences is by passing a parole hearing.
The impact of not knowing if or when he will be released has been devastating for Danny.
“These sentences weren’t meant for someone like him,” his dad Maurice Stevens said.
During his time inside he has suffered from mental health problems and has made attempts on his own life.
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.
While they were abolished eight years ago, more than 2,000 people continue to serve out their sentence today.
Of that number are many people who have been locked up for years for committing a series of “lesser’, non-violent crimes.
Danny, who “fell into the wrong crowd” on Newcastle’s Scotswood estate, fits that profile.
Since he was sentenced he has spent time in prisons including HMP Hull, Northumberland and Frankland.
“He has never been in trouble for a serious crime,” Maurice continued.
“He was just a normal lad living in a council estate before this.
“Before he went in he got on with everybody. He had a large group of friends.
“He’s a big lad, 6’4”. He knew everyone in the street and they knew him.
“He wasn’t a difficult child. He was happy normal lad. He loved to go out on his bike.”
Since the coronavirus took hold in the UK and prisons across the country were put on lockdown, Danny has spent 23 and a half hours a day inside his cell.
“He just lies there,” Maurice continued.
“He has put about three stone on since the start of lockdown. He’s about 21 stone now.
“He can’t go to the gym or nout and he has blood clots on his lungs.
“It’s like he’s lying in a coffin. When will he ever be released?”
Maurice, who is determined that his son be released, has raised funds in order to hire a human rights lawyer.
Although his attempts have been unsuccessful so far, he is refusing to give up the fight.
“What do they want from him?” he continued.
“What are they trying to achieve? I think it is state sponsored murder.
“You see your own son suffering in front of you and you can’t do anything about it. It is torture. It is barbaric.
“He has nearly spent half his life in prison because he robbed someone of a coat and a phone.”
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.”