Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

By Mark Leech

Harry Mackenney

Like any parent I can’t even begin to understand the heartache of Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen McCourt, who has no idea where her daughter’s body is located because the person convicted of her murder, Ian Simms, refuses to say – insisting he is innocent of the crime.

Now, under new laws announced this month by the Justice Secretary convicted killers who refuse to reveal the location of their victim’s body may spend longer in prison. The planned law change, to be known as ‘Helen’s Law’ in her memory, will in future compel the Parole Board to take account of a failure to reveal the location of a victim’s remains when considering a killer’s release.

To any sane person it seems reasonable, I mean if anyone knows where the body is, then it has to be the convicted killer, doesn’t it?

Or does it – what happens if juries get it wrong?

What happens if they convict an innocent person?

What happens when juries believe a liar?

It has happened before – and I was involved.

On 30th November 1980, at the Old Bailey, Harry ‘Big H’ MacKenney and Terry Pinfold were convicted of six contract killings and sentenced to life – MacKenney getting a Whole Life tariff. Both men insisted they were innocent and knew nothing about any of the alleged murders.

It was a curious case.

There was no dispute that each of their six ‘victims’ had existed, nor that each and every one of them had suddenly vanished into thin air. But the involvement of both MacKenney and Pinfold in their disappearances depended on the word of just one man: John Childs.

Childs, originally arrested and questioned by Flying Squad detectives for an armed robbery, a crime he admitted, went on to tell them a bizarre story of six contract murders which, Childs claimed, had each been procured by Pinfold and then carried out by himself and MacKenney.

So where were the bodies?

Childs told detectives each of the six bodies had been dismembered in his east London flat, after which he attempted to mince the victims remains with an industrial three-phase electrical mincing machine.

When that failed, claiming the three-phase machine “would not turn at all” when connected to the flat’s two-phase electricity supply, the dismembered bodies he said had been cremated and reduced to ash in the flat’s fire grate – with the ashes then being dispersed into the wind at numerous rural locations.

Flying Squad detectives, led by Detective Superintendent Frank Cater, were dumbstruck by the story.

MacKenney was a man they knew well, having arrested him many times for a string of armed robberies but, despite standing over 6’4″ tall and being placed on over 60 of the Flying Squad’s Identity Parades, MacKenney had not been picked out even once.

MacKenney’s one previous conviction was for punching a bus driver in the early 1960’s – hardly the monstrous murderer portrayed by Childs, but Cater, and his boss, Chief Superintendent Tony Lundy, threw everything they had into the investigation.

It came to nothing.

No bodies of any of the alleged victims were ever found.

Despite months of examinations not a single piece of forensic evidence was ever discovered linking either Pinfold or MacKenney to any of the alleged crime scenes – nor any evidence at all linking even Childs himself to the crimes apart from his claims.

No blood was ever found in the flat occupied by Childs, where the bodies were said by him to have been dismembered, and despite detailed searches no trace of the industrial mincing Childs claimed to have used unsuccessfully to mince the bodies, well no trace of that was ever found either.

Despite a trawl through three years worth of Exchange and Mart newspapers, from which Childs claimed Pinfold had purchased the mincer, no such machine was ever discovered that could to be linked to MacKenney, Pinfold, or Childs himself.

A detailed a month-long forensic search of the domestic fire grate in Childs’ flat, where he claimed each of the six dismembered bodies had been burnt to cinders, produced not a single speck of forensic evidence to support his claims.

Thorough forensic searches of the various locations where Childs claimed to have disposed of the victims’ ashes, also revealed nothing; not a single piece of evidence.

The Crown themselves were forced to confront this when Childs himself appeared for sentencing having pleaded guilty to the six murders. John Matthew QC, prosecuting, told Mr Justice Lawson at the Old Bailey that, frankly, the only reason Childs was before the court at all was due to his admissions: “Without the admissions of this defendant the Crown could not have brought a prosecution in respect of any of these murders.”

So how could Pinfold and MacKenney have been convicted – and how did I ever become involved in this case?

In 1994 I was nearing the end of a 14 year sentence for robbery in Scotland when I received a letter from ‘Big H’, who I knew from Parkhurst earlier in my sentence. I was writing feature articles on the prison system for The Guardian newspaper at time and he had read one and decided to get back in touch and ask for my help. “I’m innocent” he said.

After all the time I’d been in jail I was no stranger to claims of innocence, we’ve all heard them, but there was something different about Harry’s case, it was just so incredible that I wanted to know more so I asked Harry MacKenney to send me details of his case; four weeks later five large egg boxes stacked with trial papers arrived and with nine months of my own sentence still to serve, I sat down to read.

It was truly astonishing.

Soon after my release in March 1995 I took the case of Harry MacKenney to Michael Levy, a Manchester solicitor I respected and asked him to take the case on, he agreed and employed me as the Case Consultant. With the advice and guidance of Edward Fitzgerald QC, a barrister I had known and respected for well over 20 years, I got to work.

It was obvious that getting to the bottom of this case meant dismantling the evidence of Bruce Childs. Childs was a psychopath, that much was known from a report available at the trial of Pinfold and MacKenney, prepared by Mr Barry Irving.

Irving held a Master’s Degree in Social Psychology and was a member of the permanent research staff at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, he wrote: “I believe Childs to be severely psychopathic insofar as he shows an abnormal lack of reaction to social pressures, he will not exhibit to the court any of the normal externally observable signs of fabrication upon which the jury depend to detect lying from the witness’s demeanour.”

In short, Irving was saying Childs was so disturbed no-one could tell from watching him in the witness box that he was lying, he wouldn’t show any signs of it – but the trial judge, Mr Justice May, ruled Irving’s report could not go before the jury.

“It is for juries, not psychiatrists or psychologists to determine whether a witness is telling the truth” he ruled. On the law as it stood at the time, he was absolutely right in his ruling.

Since then however the law had changed – although that of itself was not a sufficient ground of appeal.

I turned to Professor Morgan, a professor of Electrical Engineering at UMIST – the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology – and a world leader on three-phase electrical machines. Sitting in his office I came straight to the point: Why would a three-phase industrial mincing machine, when connected to the two-phase domestic electricity supply in Childs’ flat, not work?

Answer: it would work.

In direct contradiction to the evidence of Childs that the mincing machine he had used ‘would not turn at all’, Professor Morgan explained that it would definitely turn, it might lack power, certainly, but it would definitely turn. Why had no one at the trial checked?

Next, I needed a fire expert. Inquiries I had made revealed crematoria need 1600-1800 degrees to reduce a body to ash – could a fire in a domestic council flat grate produce such temperatures – and what about the smell? Neighbours of Childs questioned in 1979 all said his behaviour was bizarre, but none of them said anything about the smell of burning flesh.

I turned to Paul Williamson, an Assistant Chief Fire Officer with 35 years service. He was adamant about two things; firstly a fire in a domestic grate would not exceed 1000 degrees, you need a fuel injection system to get beyond that and 1000 degrees was way below the temperatures needed to reduce a body to ash – and secondly you could not burn six bodies without the smell of burning flesh being obvious.

“We all know how the smell of a bacon butty lingers in a kitchen for an hour” he said, “the smell of burning flesh is unmistakable, you can’t burn six complete bodies and no one notice a thing without powerful extraction fans.” Childs had never claimed to have extraction fans.

More worryingly, evidence we found in police files, but not disclosed to the defence at the trial, revealed that one of the alleged victims, Terry Eve, had actually been tracked down by police, living under an assumed name in south London, three years after Childs and the Crown alleged he had been murdered – and the Detective Chief Inspector who had been told this was still alive and able to corroborate it.

Finally Childs himself admitted, in a sworn affidavit, the whole story was fictitious from start to end, he had taken the details from newspaper reports – MacKenney and Pinfold he said were innocent.

From inquiries we made it also became clear that Childs had a long history of bogus admissions to crimes. At various times, in addition to the claims he made about MacKenney and Pinfold, Childs had told police he was responsible for:

The killing of an inmate when he was at Rochester Borstal in 1958/9. The police had conducted a full investigation of this confession and they concluded that, although he had given a truthful account of his violent behaviour at Borstal, he had embellished it by making up a totally fictitious account of the murder of an inmate.

A murder at the Kray Brothers Club in Holloway in 1964/5. In this case Childs claimed that with criminal associates he acted as Judge and “tried” a person alleged to be an informer, and acting as Jury he convicted the man, and as Executioner he claimed to have then shot him. The police again conducted a full investigation and concluded that it was extremely unlikely that this ever happened.

There were further claims of a robbery and shooting at the Soho Club in 1966/7, stabbings in public houses in Hillingdon and drive by shooting too; the police could trace no record of any of these.

A murder in Poplar High Street in 1978 of a vagrant whom Childs then claimed to have dismembered and burnt. The police could find no evidence to support this at all.

In July 2001 the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) having spent 18 months considering MacKenney’s application, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal.

More than two years later, in October 2003, the Appeal Court finally quashed the convictions of Harry MacKenney and Terry Pinfold and both men, after spending 24 years in prison, walked free.

But pause here now for a moment.

What if none of this had happened?

What if Helen’s Law, or something similar, had been in place at this time?

How could Pinfold or MacKenney, or anyone convicted of a murder they knew nothing about, reveal the location of a deceased whose death or disposal they had nothing to do with?

Juries do get it wrong, the case of MacKenney and Pinfold proves that six times over – and what happens even when juries get it right?

What happens when the Parole Board, forced to employ Helen’s Law comes up against someone genuinely guilty of a murder? Someone who admits their part in it, who is remorseful, has made good progress in custody, whose risk of harm can be safely managed in the community – but who genuinely asserts the body was disposed of not by them, but by a third party, who are themselves now deceased, and they have no idea where the body of the person they killed is located?

Are they to be denied release?

And what of those killers who don’t care about getting out, what of those who after decades in prison have nothing to go out to?

What of those who will see this as a sick game, who wish to inflict even greater pain on the victim’s families – families who may well over the years have constantly abused the prisoner in the media whenever their case was mentioned – and who now demand their help?

What if killers deliberately mislead by identifying as ‘burial sites’ what are today major buildings, motorways, or railway lines; saying these are the final resting place of the deceased?

What if a person claims the body is buried in what is now Canary Wharf, the Port of Dover, Heathrow or Gatwick Airports?

How many times are these places to be shut down, sites excavated, and all in vain – raising a family’s hopes, only to have them trashed and dashed once again?

What happens if it is claimed the body was buried at sea – how does the Parole Board even begin to unpick that one?

It is understandable why any parent wants to locate the body of their child, brutally slain and left to rot in some godforsaken place they know not where.

But this is a difficult and complex area, one that politicians interfere with at their peril. What seems to them like an opportunity to gain political kudos may well, in reality, bring nothing but unforeseen and untold distress to the victim’s family who have surely already suffered more than enough.

We may be dealing here with some killers who have no feelings, serial killers especially rarely do, and the end result of Helen’s Law, however well-intentioned, may be that the victim’s families must endure even greater pain.

Who knows what may happen when juries, families or the Parole Board, believe a liar?

Mark Leech, is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales.

He tweets as @prisonsorguk:

Mother ‘Elated’ Helen’s Law Will Deny Killers Parole Until Bodies Are Found

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

The mother of murdered Helen McCourt said she is “elated” laws are to finally change so killers are denied parole if they refuse to reveal where they hid their victim’s body.

Marie McCourt has begged murderer Ian Simms to tell her the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains ever since the insurance clerk vanished on her way home from work in 1988.

But the pub landlord, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of the 22-year-old’s abduction and murder and is still in jail, has always maintained his innocence.

She campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he helped lead police to her daughter’s body.

MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016 but it had yet to receive Government backing, until Justice Secretary David Gauke announced the move on Saturday.

Helen’s Law will make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer’s failure to disclose the location of their victim’s remains when considering them for release.

Mrs McCourt, from St Helens, Merseyside, said she hoped it would stop the “torture” of killers “calling the shots” and realise they need to co-operate.

If they do help, it should not automatically mean they can be released, she added.

She told PA: “I feel really elated and quite relieved that it’s finally happening.

“I really can’t believe it. I have been trying for so long

“It has been a terrible stress on me since I started the petition in 2015. It was voted for in Parliament but then it was delayed after the general election.

“I just know Brexit took up too much time in Parliament.

“This law will help so many other families.”

When she marks what would have been her daughter’s 54th birthday later this month, she said it would be with her “heart lifted” in light of the news.

But she said it was still agony being denied the chance to recover her daughter’s remains, adding: “I wrote to him, begging him ‘please, please just tell me and you will not hear from me again’.

“I still hope he will remain in prison until he tells me.

“I hope one day I will know.”

She thanked her “amazing” MP Conor McGinn and Mr Gauke for their support in the campaign and said the wait for change was long but worth it.

Parole Board guidance already says offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could therefore face longer in prison.

But Helen’s Law will for the first time make it a legal requirement to consider this withholding of information when making a decision on whether to release an offender, the Ministry of Justice said.

It is hoped the legislation will be brought into force as soon as possible.

Courts can also hand down tougher sentences for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.

Mr Gauke said: “It is a particular cruelty to deny grieving families the opportunity to lay their murdered loved one to rest and I have immense sympathy with Marie McCourt and others in her situation.

“Those responsible should know that if they choose to compound this further through their behaviour, they will be held accountable.”

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

Inmate stabbed to death at Wormwood Scrubs to ‘teach him a lesson’, court told

A prisoner was stabbed to death with a makeshift knife at HMP Wormwood Scrubs to teach him a “lesson”, a court has heard

Khader Saleh, 25, was attacked by fellow inmate Kalifa Dibbassey, 21, after visiting his cell to try to resolve a dispute, jurors were told.

Dibbassey is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of murder alongside Ahmed Khayre, 22, and Enton Marku, 20, who were allegedly recruited to help on January 31.

opening the trial, Oliver Glasgow QC said: “It appears that Khader Saleh had gone to this cell in the hope of trying to resolve a conflict that he had with Kalifa Dibbassey.

“However, he could have had no idea what lay in wait for him.

“Kalifa Dibbassey had armed himself with a makeshift knife for the purpose of attacking Khader Saleh and had gone to the trouble of recruiting help in order that he could carry out his plan.”

Marku was waiting outside the cell and Khayre escorted the victim inside, it is claimed.

Mr Glasgow told jurors: “Once the cell door was shut, Khader Saleh was attacked and stabbed twice.

“He had no chance to defend himself or to strike out at his attackers, which is why the only person to sustain any injury in that cell was Khader Saleh.”

Afterwards, the defendants allegedly set off an alarm before climbing into a neighbouring cell and setting off an alarm there too.

They got away when a prison guard unlocked the cell door moments later, the Old Bailey was told.

Mr Glasgow said the attack appeared to have been sparked by a “minor altercation” in the segregation unit the day before.

He said: “No-one saw what happened but Khader Saleh had sustained an injury to his face and it was evident that a fight had broken out and someone had assaulted him inside the holding cell.”

On the possible motive for the attack, Mr Glasgow said: “Khader Saleh had made a nuisance of himself and he needed to be taught a lesson.”

Jurors heard Dibbassey had admitted the killing but had said he acted in self-defence.

The prosecutor said: “Kalifa Dibbassey was waiting in his cell for Khader Saleh to arrive, he had armed himself with a knife that had been fabricated from a piece of metal.

“He was ready to use that knife the moment the cell door was shut and as soon as he had killed Khader Saleh he ran from the cell and hid in a cell on a completely different level.”

Mr Glasgow said all three men “played their part” in the death at the west London jail and it did not matter who wielded the weapon.

Wormwood Scrubs has an operational capacity of around 1,300 prisoners and at the time of Mr Saleh’s death, there were 1,188 inmates.

All three defendants have denied murder.

Six prison homicides in one year reflect unacceptable level of prison violence, says Ombudsman

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Homicides in prison are still rare but the number has increased, vividly illustrating the unacceptable level of violence in prisons in England and Wales, said Nigel Newcomen, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO). Today he published a bulletin on lessons that can be learned from his investigations.

The PPO investigates all deaths in custody and his remit is to examine the circumstances surrounding the death and establish whether anything can be done to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. In December 2013 he published a bulletin which looked at 16 prison homicides investigated from 2003-4 to 2012-13, an average of 1.6 per year. The 2013 bulletin identified a number of concerns, in particular the need to improve the management of risk that vulnerable prisoners pose to one another. It led to operational changes in high security prisons.

In the three years that followed, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, another 13 prisoners were killed by another prisoner or prisoners (an average of 4.3 homicides per year). This bulletin considers the learning from six of those 13 homicides where investigations have been completed, and another two from the beginning of 2013.

The bulletin highlights the need for:

  • prisons to have a coordinated approach to identifying indicators and risks of bullying and violent behaviour, including the impact of new psychoactive substances and associated debt, and taking allegations of intimidation seriously;
  • prisons to have an effective security and cell-searching strategy, enabling weapons to be found and removed;
  • concerns about potentially vulnerable prisoners to be properly recorded and action taken to ensure prisoners are located in a place of safety; and
  • the police to be notified without delay when a prisoner appears to have been seriously assaulted, evidence preserved and all prisoners involved in an incident to be held separately until police arrive.

 

Nigel Newcomen said:

“The killing of one prisoner by another in a supposedly secure prison environment is particularly shocking, and it is essential to seek out any lessons that might prevent these chilling occurrences in future.

“The cases we studied had little in common beyond their tragic outcome. Nevertheless, what is clear is that the increased number of homicides is emblematic of the wholly unacceptable level of violence in our prisons.

“The bulletin does identify a number of areas of learning: the need to better manage violence and debt in prison, not least that associated with the current epidemic of new psychoactive substances; the need for rigorous cell searching to minimise the availability of weapons; the need for careful management of prisoners known to be at risk from others and the need to ensure prisons know how to respond when they have an apparent homicide.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales and Converse, said:

“The rising tide of violence in our prisons is what happens when staffing levels are cut beyond safe levels, when budgets are slashed that allow already attenuated regimes to deteriorate further and when the Prison Service has yet to get to grips with the impact of high levels of New Psychotic Substances which are increasingly widely available across the entire prison estate.

“When you strip away the political rhetoric, the promises of more staff, the assertions that the Prison Service is doing all it can, the simple fact is that you cannot run a modern, safe, prison service on tuppence ha’penny – that’s the shockingly simple truth of the matter at the end of the day.”

A copy of the bulletin is here.

Serial killer admits to Dowler murder

millBellfieldSplit

Serial killer Levi Bellfield’s shock confession to the murder of Milly Dowler has prompted police to review probes into “a number” of other crimes.

Bellfield, who was given a whole-life prison sentence in June 2011 for killing the 13 year old, made the admission for the first time during an investigation into whether he had an accomplice, Surrey Police said.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed it was looking at new information relating to criminal investigations, but refused to give details.

A spokesman said: “The MPS is liaising with a number of other UK police forces in relation to information which has been passed on to us regarding a number of criminal investigations. That information remains subject to assessment and for that reason we will not be discussing the matter in further detail at this time.

“We are not prepared to discuss at this time the number of investigations or details of any case.”

Bellfield has been linked to several other crimes.

At the time of his conviction in June 2011, detectives said they believed Bellfield may have been responsible for around 20 attacks on women which were never solved.

These included the killing of Judith Gold, who was hit over the head in Hampstead, north London, in 1990, and Bellfield’s schoolfriend Patsy Morris, 14, who was strangled on Hounslow Heath, west London, in 1980.

Anna Maria Rennie identified Bellfield as the man who tried to force her into a car in Whitton, west of London, when she was just 17 in October 2001. But the jury at Bellfield’s 2008 trial for the murders of two other women could not agree and the charge was left on file.

Attempts for a retrial for attempted kidnap failed when Miss Rennie refused to attend court.

Bellfield was already in jail for the murders of Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, when he went on trial accused of killing Milly.

In 2008, he had been given a whole life term for murdering Ms McDonnell, 19, in 2003, and murdering Ms Delagrange, 22, and attempting to murder Ms Sheedy, 18, in 2004.

Milly was snatched from the street while on her way from school to her home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.

Her body was found in a wood in Yateley Heath, Hampshire – 25 miles from Walton-on-Thames.

Bellfield, 47, who now calls himself Yusuf Rahim, lived 50 yards from where Milly vanished but did not become a suspect until he was arrested by police in London for the other crimes in 2004.

He was found guilty of abducting and killing Milly following a trial at the Old Bailey before he lost a bid in February 2012 to challenge his conviction at the Court of Appeal in London.

Surrey Police said a man in his 40s arrested on Wednesday was released without charge, after finding there was no evidence to support the accomplice allegation.

Mentally ill inmate admits battering cell-mate to death

copsinwannoA mentally ill prisoner has admitted battering his cell mate over the head with a television set as he awaited trial for a random attack on a walker at popular beauty spot.

In June 2014, Taras Nykolyn, 46, pounced on Roger Maxwell as he took an early morning stroll near the Windmill landmark on Wimbledon Common in south-west London.

He forced the victim to the ground, smashing his face and breaking his wrist.

Then, while he was on remand at Wandsworth prison, Nykolyn killed Wadid Barsoum by hitting him with a TV, punching and stabbing him in their cell.

Ukrainian Nykolyn, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to both attacks at the Old Bailey with the help of an interpreter.

He admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm to Mr Maxwell on June 19 2014 and the manslaughter of Mr Barsoum on May 4 last year.

Alternative charges of grievous bodily harm with intent and murder were ordered to lie on file by the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, after hearing the defendant was suffering from mental illness at the time.

Prosecutor Simon Denison QC said: “Two psychiatric reports concluded that the defendant suffers from an abnormality of mental function, namely paranoid psychosis.

“They are satisfied that at the time of the killing of Mr Barsoum his responsibility was diminished.”

Although there was a possible defence of insanity to the attack on Mr Maxwell, the Crown was satisfied it was dealt with appropriately with the plea to a lesser charge.

Diana Ellis QC, defending, told the court that Nykolyn had been moved to HMP Belmarsh since the killing.

Then in November last year, he was transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital for an assessment before being sent back to the top security jail.

As the requirements have not been met for a hospital order, the defendant faces a jail sentence, the court heard.

Sentencing was adjourned to Friday, January 22.

HMP Wandsworth was built in 1851 and is now the largest prison in the UK, holding 1,877 inmates

Alongside HMP Liverpool, which is of similar size, the category B jail is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe.

The spot where Mr Maxwell was attacked is not far from where young mother Rachel Nickell was stabbed to death by schizophrenic Robert Napper on July 15 1992

In 2008, Napper pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility bringing to an end the inquiry into one of the most notorious killings in modern British criminal history.

Whole life sentence to be re-examined

A triple killer’s claim that his whole-life prison sentence breaches his human rights is to be re-examined by European judges.

Arthur Hutchinson’s case will be considered again after it was referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Earlier this year a judgment from the Strasbourg court ruled that there had been no violation.

However, Hutchinson applied for the case to be passed to the ECHR’s Grand Chamber. It has now emerged that his request has been accepted after it was assessed by a panel of five judges.

After an original Chamber judgment has been delivered, parties are able to ask for a referral to the Grand Chamber for fresh consideration. Requests are accepted on “an exceptional basis”, according to the ECHR’s website.

No details of the reason for referring Hutchinson’s case have been released.

The move will bring fresh scrutiny of the protracted issue of “life means life” terms.

Hutchinson was jailed in 1984 for stabbing Basil and Avril Laitner to death after breaking into the couple’s Sheffield home, and then killing one of their sons.

The judge in his original trial ruled that he should serve 18 years but then-home secretary Leon Brittan later determined he should face the whole-life tariff.

In 2008, Hutchinson had a domestic appeal against whole-life tariffs kicked out by the Court of Appeal.

He was the first Briton to challenge the sentence after a controversial ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in July 2013 that whole-life tariffs breach human rights.

The Strasbourg-based court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which relates to inhuman and degrading treatment – on the basis that whole-life orders were not “reducible”.

In that decision judges did not say whole-life sentences were incompatible with the convention, but that there had to be the possibility of a review at some stage and that current laws allowing for release in exceptional circumstances were unclear.

Relying on Article 3, Hutchinson claims that his whole life sentence amounts to “inhuman and degrading treatment” as he has no hope of release.

Court of Appeal judges ruled last year that the Grand Chamber was wrong when it said in a previous ruling that the law of England and Wales did not clearly provide for “reducibility”, saying the domestic law “is clear as to ‘possible exceptional release of whole-life prisoners'”.

They underlined the power given to the Secretary of State to release a prisoner on licence if he is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist which justify the prisoner’s release on compassionate grounds.

In February judges at the ECHR found by a majority that they consider the legal situation in the UK to be in line with human rights laws, ruling that in Hutchinson’s case there was no violation of Article 3 as the Secretary of State has the power to review whole-life sentences.

Mark Leech editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said he would expect the re examination of the whole life tariff to uphold the original decision.

Mr Leech said “It would be an extraordinary state of affairs if someone could murder three people and expect that one day they could once again walk the streets – I just dont think the public would either understand or accept that.”

Killer cleared on retrial

The Prisons Handbook 2015 – out now  /  Home Page  /  Converse Prison Newspaper

 

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A young woman fell to her knees sobbing as she was cleared by a jury of murdering her friend’s violent boyfriend after a retrial ordered by the Court of Appeal.

Stacey Hyde was originally convicted at Bristol Crown Court in 2010 of killing 34-year-old Vincent Francis when she was aged 17 at the flat he shared with her friend, Holly Banwell.

Miss Hyde, now 23, from Wells, Somerset, had denied murder saying she was in fear for her life but the original jury disagreed and she was sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison by Mr Justice Field.

However, in November last year, the court of appeal overturned her murder conviction and Lord Justice Laws ordered a retrial which has been held at Winchester Crown Court lasting four weeks.

Miss Hyde sobbed and wiped away tears as the judge, Mr Justice Teare, discharged her and told her she was free to leave the court.

The original trial heard that Miss Hyde, a waitress, armed herself with a 10-inch knife and stabbed Mr Francis up to 17 times.

The Bristol court was told that after stabbing Mr Francis, Miss Hyde told Ms Banwell: “I did it for you because I don’t like the way he treats you.”

Mr Justice Fields said that in sentencing Miss Hyde he had taken into consideration that the violence had been initiated by Mr Francis.

The trial heard that Miss Hyde, who had been drinking heavily that night, had gone back to Ms Banwell’s flat in Wells on September 4, 2009, after a night out.

Ms Banwell had called 999 after Mr Francis had attacked her and then Miss Hyde before the defendant then hit him back before she went and picked up a carving knife and stabbed him in the back and chest.

The jury was played the 999 call made by Ms Banwell in which she asks for help to stop Mr Francis from attacking Miss Hyde as the defendant then stabs him.

She says in the call: “My boyfriend is smashing, beating up my friend, she’s a girl and I need the police, I need the police ASAP.”

She continued: “There was a huge row and he hits me, and he started on, basically he hit me and he hit me so she hit him and now he has started on her and now they are hitting each other. I need the police.”

Ms Banwell then goes on to say: “Don’t f****** punch me, I’m on the phone to the police, don’t punch me, do you know what I mean, I’ve just got a smack in. No Stacey, put that down.”

With screaming heard in the background, she continues: “She has got a knife, she’s got a knife, she’s got a knife. She’s stabbed him. Oh my God she has stabbed him.”

The retrial has heard about Miss Hyde’s mental health with expert witnesses for the defence and prosecution disagreeing to the extent she may have suffered from a personality disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which can lead to a failure of impulse control.

The Winchester court was also told that the defendant had difficulty coping with stressful situations and in 2009 had been sent for urgent assessment for problematic use of alcohol, depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.

 

In a statement released after the hearing, Miss Hyde said: “I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up.

“I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.”

Her mother, Diane Hyde, said: “It’s the happiest day of my life. We’re ecstatic, very happy, can’t believe this has happened.

“We are very sad that someone died but we are very grateful for this verdict. We are very proud of Stacey who has shown great courage and dignity throughout this nightmare.

“It’s been five years of knowing the verdict was wrong in the first place, my daughter wouldn’t knowingly hurt anyone and none of us know what we would do if we are in fear.”

A spokeswoman for Justice for Women criticised the prosecution as the “unnecessary and costly murder retrial of a damaged and vulnerable young woman”.

She said: “Justice for Women have supported Stacey since 2011 throughout a series of appeals.

“We are delighted that justice has finally been done and that Stacey will now be able to receive the support she needs instead of being unjustly punished for her own vulnerability and fear.”

The spokeswoman said that the retrial had been unnecessary because Miss Hyde had been willing to plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds that she was acting out of self-defence.

She added that even prosecution psychiatric witnesses had agreed that Miss Hyde had been suffering from a “number of mental disorders”.

The spokeswoman continued: “A 999 call made at the time of the killing revealed that Stacey was screaming in terror throughout the incident and that her former friend Holly Banwell, despite her evidence to the contrary, was under attack by Francis at the time of the stabbing.

“Evidence emerged of a history of violence towards women by Francis, including a former girlfriend who gave similar evidence.”

Jane Andrews to be released say Parole Board

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janeandrews

Former royal aide Jane Andrews, who was jailed for stabbing her boyfriend to death in 2001, is to be released from prison, the Parole Board has said.

She flew into a rage when he told her he had no intention of marrying her and, while he was asleep, battered him with a cricket bat and then stabbed him to death.

The Secretary of State will now rule on her release date.

A spokesman for the Parole Board said two men and one woman made the decision and added: “We can confirm that a three member panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Jane Andrews.

“The decision to release is a matter for the Board, which is independent – arrangements and the date of the release are a matter for the Secretary of State for Justice.

“We are unable to comment further on the details of this case.”

The killer will be bankrolled into new found freedom – with a nest-egg from property sales she made in jail.

She is now set to use the cash windfall to fund her eventual release.

Last night a shocked relative of her victim warned that the former flunkey was still volatile, and posed a serious threat to men if her future relationships imploded.

Tom’s older brother Rick Cressman, aged 64 years, insisted that Andrews had never shown remorse.

And he recently warned the Parole Board examining her freedom bid not to be swayed by any belated apology she might make to achieve it.

Rick had previously said Andrews should be accompanied by a public health warning, like those on cigarette packets.

Friends are understood to have alerted his family, who wanted Andrews to stay in jail, to prepare themselves for her release which the three man Parole Board yesterday approved.

Rick insisted yesterday: “Her getting parole is against our wishes and is a devastating blow to all of us.”

Andrews has already served an extra two-years on top of the 11 year life sentence tariff imposed at the Old Bailey in 2001.

She subsequently lost a previous freedom bid on the grounds that she remained a danger to the opposite sex.

Now aged 46 years, Andrews stabbed her ex stock broker partner with a kitchen knife and battered him with a cricket bat before fleeing – leading to her former boss, Sarah Ferguson, appealing for her to surrender.

While serving life at HMP Send, near Guildford, Surrey, she sold her flat overlooking Battersea Park, London, two-years-ago, making a reported £300,000 profit.

This enabled her to buy another dwelling, a terraced house in Angmering, near Worthing, West Sussex, costing around £300k – which again she sold recently.

It means that the working class girl from Grimsby, the ambitious daughter of a joiner and a social worker mother, is likely to be switched to an open prison in preparation for her release.

She now has a healthy bank balance, either to invest, or help her get back on to the property ladder, when she is finally released.

Rick claimed Tom would have helped her to buy the London property, or at least made contributions to her mortgage payments, before she murdered him.

“Andrews is still devious and her personality hasn’t changed,” he insisted last night.

The volatile ex-royal aide has made three suicide attempts. Her first was when she was 15, after her mother discovered her truancy. She made a second bid after trashing the home of the son of a Greek shipping millionaire who had dumped her.

Her final bid to end her life came after she fled Tom’s murder and went on the run, hiding in her getaway car in a roadside lay by in Cornwall.

Andrews married aged 17 but divorced five years later claiming she had been abused.

Strangely, she was never punished for escaping from a previous open prison, East Sutton Park, Kent.

The £19,000 a year Royal servant, who saw Fergie’s job advertised in The Lady magazine, was jailed following a sensational trial at the Old Bailey, in which she dressed every day, head to toe, in black as if to show the jury she was in mourning.

Following his wedding snub, she murdered her partner at his home in Fulham, West London, following a holiday in Italy.

Camera smuggled in to hospital to snap Ian Brady

Ian Brady
Ian Brady

A “disgruntled” man from Liverpool smuggled a camera into a high-security psychiatric hospital in a bid to sell photos of notorious serial killer Ian Brady to the News of the World for £50,000, a court has heard.

Alan Hagan, 48, is on trial at the Old Bailey over his dealings with News of the World (NotW) crime reporter Lucy Panton in 2008 while he worked at Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside.

He was allegedly paid £1,000 for a story headlined “Suicide Brady hid pills in his sock” in February of that year, just a month after he first made contact with Ms Panton.

The pair went on to hatch a subterfuge nicknamed “The Project” to smuggle in a camera to take pictures and video of the ageing Moors Murderer – the first since his mugshot was released in 1966.

The court heard Hagan, who wanted to take “revenge” on bosses for his treatment, discussed payment of £50,000 for the shots.

Hagan, of Galston Close, Liverpool, denies the charge of misconduct in a public office.

Even though he did manage to smuggle a camera into Ashworth Hospital, the resulting pictures were not good enough quality and they were not published, jurors were told.

Prosecutor Mark Trafford QC told jurors that Brady was a 77-year-old patient at Ashworth who had become notorious for committing the Moors Murders with Myra Hindley, who is now dead.

Between 1963 and 1965 they murdered children on the moors around Manchester.

They were tried in 1966 and were described as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity” when they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The case has stayed in the public’s consciousness over the following years as attempts were made to find the graves of the children, the prosecutor said.

Mr Trafford told jurors: “Their crimes vividly live on. The public disgust and horror of what these two people did has never and will never, of course, go away and nor, you may think, should it.

“But this case is not about what they did and what we think of them, or think of Ian Brady and what he did.

“You may well feel he is not worthy of any protection of anything anywhere. You may well think that he is beyond contempt, and you would not be blamed for that.

“But, as even Winston Churchill himself said, one of the ways we judge our society is how we look after our prisoners.”

In April 2008, an attempt by Hagan to smuggle a camera into the hospital inside a belt failed, the court heard.

Then in August, Ms Panton emailed her boss about meeting her Brady contact in Liverpool, telling him: “Meet Friday, it looks like there will be an opportunity to get the project back on.”

By October, Hagan had a new piece of kit enabling him to take pictures and video inside the secure hospital. But they were not good enough quality for the newspaper, the jury was told.

Mr Trafford said Hagan first approached the NotW because he was “disgruntled” with his employer and believed he had been “badly treated” by management.

He said: “His revenge, and his road to seek large sums of money, was to seek to sell pictures to the media. He had the position and the opportunity.

“He had seen and worked near people whose faces, whose crimes and whose past were known to many members of the public.

“He knew that such an action was not just forbidden, as you can well imagine, but was something that, the Crown say, was quite obvious to anybody who worked in or around the secure hospital system, an act that went to the very heart of the system and helped undermine all efforts to run such a system.”