Murderers' challenge may open way for Hindley

Moors murderer Myra Hindley could win the right to seek her freedom if three other killers defeat the Home Secretary in a key House of Lords appeal which begins tomorrow.

Moors murderer Myra Hindley could win the right to seek her freedom if three other killers defeat the Home Secretary in a key House of Lords appeal which begins tomorrow.

Convicted murderer Anthony Anderson is challenging the politician’s power to fix tariffs – or minimum periods of detention – for murderers.

Killers Daniella Lichniak and Glyn Pyrah are challenging the rules which force judges to pass a life sentence for murder regardless of the circumstances of the offence.

If they win their case it could clear the way for Hindley to being her own case for release.

However, Mr Blunkett has made it clear that he would not tolerate such notorious killers being freed, and said he will bring in new laws to prevent it if necessary.

It would also open the way for 26 other inmates whose tariffs were raised by the British Home Secretary to have their cases reviewed.

Up to 70 of those have already served more time than originally recommended by their trial judge, and could bring cases arguing they should be set free immediately.

Solicitor for the three murderers involved in today’s appeal, John Dickinson of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: “Anderson’s appeal questions the power of the Home Secretary to set the minimum term convicted murderers must serve for punishment.

“The issue is whether sentencing should be carried out in a court by a judge or whether politicians should be involved in such a sentencing procedure.

“It will be argued that political intervention contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights’ requirement to a fair trial.”

It was “arbitrary” to impose life sentences on all murderers regardless of the facts of the offence, he said.

On the cases of Lichniak and Pyrah, he said: “Both sentencing judges stated that they did not consider the appellants to be a danger to society, but their sentences were identical to that of a person considered to be such a threat.”

The crucial difference between today’s case and that of Hindley – is that she is one of 23 prisoners in the country serving a “whole life” term.

But if the three are successful, “whole life” tariff prisoners may be able to apply for new tariffs to be set by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf,

In July, Lord Woolf revised guidelines for life sentences and said the whole life minimum terms should no longer be given out, with trial judges instead making no recommended minimum period of imprisonment.

Mr Dickinson stressed that the issues being appealed this week did not directly affect the cases of “whole life” murderers like Hindley, who has spent 37 years in jail for her role as Ian Brady’s accomplice in the sadistic killings of five children.

In 1982, former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, recommended she serve a minimum of 25 years.

“There is nothing in the arguments which will be advanced on behalf of any of the applicants which will prevent the fixing of such a lengthy minimum term that a prisoner will never be released,” said the solicitor.

Anderson was convicted of murder in 1988 and the 15-year tariff recommended by the trail judge was increased to 20 by the Home Secretary of the day.

Lichniak, a 41-year-old mother of four, stabbed a man to death in a pub fight in 1990, and was jailed for 10 years.

Pyrah, 47, had been drinking heavily when he saw a man assaulting a women in the street, and intervened. He punched the assailant, knocked him to the ground and delivered one kick, which proved fatal. He was jailed for eight years.

The right to set the tariff is the only sentencing power retained by the Home Secretary after a succession of rulings from Strasbourg.

An appeal by the killers of James Bulger meant the politician lost the ability to intervene in the sentencing of juveniles.

Another ruling in May this year stripped him of the power to keep killers in jail after the Parole Board recommended their release.

Mr Dickinson said that if Anderson wins his appeal in front of the panel of seven law lords, it will affect all serving life sentenced prisoners who have had their tariffs increased by the Home Secretary.

It will also mean all offenders convicted of murder in future will have their minimum terms set by the trial judge and not a politician, which could be appealed by both defence and prosecution.

If Lichniak and Pyrah are successful judges will have an option to pass a sentence other than a mandatory life term, for example in a “compassionate killing”.

He added: “No doubt the life sentence will continue to be appropriate in the vast majority of cases.”

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