Ripper to learn outcome of minimum-term ruling

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe will today learn the outcome of his plea not to have to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe will today learn the outcome of his plea not to have to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A judge in the High Court in London will announce his decision on an application by the serial killer to have a minimum term set which will give him the chance of parole.

Now known as Peter Coonan, the 63-year-old former lorry driver, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1981.

He received 20 life terms for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

A judge recommended that he serve a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

His name was not on a Home Office list, published in 2006, of 35 murderers serving “whole life” sentences and he was given no formal minimum term – which is the least a prisoner must serve before becoming eligible to apply for release on parole.

He is currently being held in Broadmoor top security psychiatric hospital after being transferred from prison in 1984 suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Dr Kevin Murray, the psychiatrist who has been in charge of Sutcliffe’s care since 2001, said in a 2006 report that he now posed a “low risk of reoffending”.

Ripper's reign of terror:

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

Sutcliffe is said to have believed he was on a “mission from God” to kill prostitutes – although not all of his victims were sex workers – and was dubbed the 'Ripper' because he mutilated their bodies using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.

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

In setting his tariff, the High Court is expected to take account of the gravity of his crimes, whether or not he has made “exceptional” progress in custody, the state of his mental health and any representations from him, his victims or their families.

Whatever the outcome of the tariff hearing, he will only be freed if the authorities consider he no longer poses a danger to the public.

The court will have power to set a definite number of years which Sutcliffe must serve before being eligible for parole, or rule that he must spend the rest of his life locked up.

A judge recently refused to allow fresh psychiatric evidence to be admitted as part of the tariff-setting exercise, although he said it could be considered in relation to his conduct post-sentence.

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