Tariff to be set as Ripper launches bid for parole

YORKSHIRE Ripper Peter Sutcliffe lost his cloak of anonymity yesterday as alegal battle began over whether he should ever be freed.

A High Court judge set up a hearing to decide the minimum term he must remain in custody before parole can be considered.

During yesterday’s preliminary proceedings, it became clear that a whole-life tariff is among the options under consideration for Sutcliffe, currently held in a top security psychiatric hospital.

The tariff is the minimum term a convicted criminal must serve for retribution and deterrence before becoming eligible for release.

Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, was told the killer, now 63, wished toattend the tariff-setting hearing in person.

Now known as Peter Coonan, the lorry driver from Bradford was convicted at the Old Bailey in London in 1981 for the murder of 13 women, and seven counts of attempted murder, in Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

It was said at his trial he believed he was on a “mission from God” to kill prostitutes, although not all of his victims were prostitutes.

He was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated their bodies using a hammer, a sharpened screw driver and a knife.

The trial jury rejected his claim of diminished responsibility and found him guilty of murder.

Yesterday, Mr Justice John Mitting, giving directions for the pending hearing, said: “A tariff will be set. Indeed it is long overdue.”

Lifting an existing court order giving Sutcliffe anonymity, he ruled: “The press are at liberty to report the fact that these proceedings concern Peter Sutcliffe/ Peter Coonan.”

The Prime Minister said in February last year it was “very unlikely” Sutcliffe would be released.

Yesterday, the court heard that Justice Secretary Jack Straw was submitting cases for the tariff hearing in which whole-life terms had been set. The judge indicated that “about 20 other cases might be relevant”.

Sutcliffe is being held in Broadmoor in Berkshireafter being transferred from prison in 1984 suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

At yesterday’s preliminary hearing, the judge rejected a call on Sutcliffe’s behalf for fresh medical evidence about his psychiatric state at the time he committed his crimes to be considered.

The court heard Sutcliffe’s treating doctor at Broadmoor, Kevin Murray, believed the killer should never have been convicted of murder because of mental illness. But the judge said his report dealing with those issues was not admissible with regard to the length of the tariff, but could be considered in relation to his post-sentence conduct.

The treatment prescribed to Sutcliffe “has had in Dr Murray’s view very considerable success”, said the judge.

Since 1993 he had been “relatively responsive to treatment”, leading to a conclusion that “so long as treatment continues he should be regarded as posing a low risk of re-offending”.

It was on July 5, 1975, just 11 months after his marriage, that Sutcliffe took a hammer and made his first attack on a woman.

He has spent nearly all of his years in captivity at Broadmoor after being diagnosed as mentally ill, but refused treatment until 1993 when the Mental Health Commission ruled it should be given forcibly.

Sutcliffe, who was continuously referred to in court as Coonan, was given 20 life sentences for the killings, which took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Mr Justice Boreham, the trial judge, recommended a tariff of 30 years, and the then Lord Chief Justice advised 35 years, but no tariff was formally set.

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