Fresh inquest into Stephen Port murders to examine police probe, court told

Families of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port have been told a fresh inquest into their deaths will focus on possible failings in the police investigation.

But the Old Bailey was told it would not be lawful to investigate the conduct of another coroner who previously failed to identify foul play in the deaths of two of the young men before Port was caught.

Port, now aged 44, drugged and raped four young men and dumped their bodies near his home in Barking, east London, between 2014 and 2015.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey, he was handed a whole-life sentence for the murders of fashion student Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Kent chef Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, a forklift truck driver from Dagenham.

Since then, the victims’ families have question why he was not stopped sooner and the Independent Office for Police Conduct has investigated.

An earlier inquest into the deaths of Mr Whitworth and Mr Kovari which had reached an open conclusion was quashed.

During the trial it had transpired a suicide note purporting to be penned by Mr Whitworth admitting involvement in Mr Kovari’s death had been faked by Port to cover his tracks.

On Friday, Judge Sarah Munro QC, sitting as assistant coroner for east London, vowed to hold a “full, fair and fearless” inquest.

She offered her “sincere condolences” to the family of Mr Taylor and Mr Whitworth’s partner in court as well as bereaved relatives not present.

Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel for the coroner, told the court: “The main focus of these inquests should be the adequacy of the police investigation into Mr Port.”

He said it would not be necessary to call extensive evidence on the circumstances of the deaths because Port’s conviction was evidence in itself.

On the scope of the inquest, he said: “The starting point will be evidence of police involvement and knowledge of Stephen Port prior to the death of Anthony Walgate.

“It will then be necessary for you to examine the way the police responded to each of the four deaths, the response to earlier deaths being relevant.

“It will inform your investigation into whether steps should have been taken before the later deaths – even before the last death of Jack Taylor.”

Mr O’Connor argued that Ms Munro had no power to investigate any “insufficiency” by the original coroner in the inquest into the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth.

That included whether she properly scrutinised the fake suicide note and Mr Whitworth’s movements in the days before his death.

He said: “What this boils down to is evidence relating to these matters was not called at the inquest into Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth’s deaths. When witnesses and a police officer were called they were not pressed.”

But he said: “The inquests happened. We will be hearing evidence of those inquests. The transcripts will be before you.

“Witnesses, police officers who took part in those inquests can and no doubt will be asked about what they said at those inquests, what they did before those inquests and what they did or did not do after those inquests.”

He stressed Ms Munro would not be able to look at whether the original coroner in some way “failed”.

Mr O’Connor said Port himself had the legal right to take part in the inquests but it was not yet known if he wanted to.

If he did, it was suggested he could hear evidence by video link from prison and it would not be necessary for him to give evidence.

Any involvement by Port in his victims’ inquests would cause “upset” to the families, the court heard.

During the hearing, Ms Munro said: “My priority this morning is to express my sincere condolences to the families both present and absent for the loss of their loved ones.

“You have my assurance that I will conduct full, fair and fearless inquests.”

“I recognise you will all feel frustration at the time it has taken to reach this point. I assure you work has been progressing as expeditiously as possible. There is a considerable amount of work to be done.

“I note that concerns have previously been raised about independence of the process. Those concerns can be allayed by my appointment.”

Afterwards, lawyer Andrew Petherbridge, acting for the families, said: “It’s clear from today’s hearing that there remains a long process ahead for the families.

“However, they remain committed to unearthing the truth and are grateful to the coroner for the careful consideration she is giving all matters.”

A further pre-inquest review will take place at the Old Bailey in November with a full inquest at the same venue as soon as possible in 2020.

A decision on whether to hold the inquest with a jury was put off until the next hearing.

Whole life tariff for child killer and his 20 year campaign of sexual violence

A convicted child murderer has been told he will die in prison by a judge who described his “20-year campaign of rape and sexual assaults against children and women, fuelled by a sadistic desire to inflict pain for sexual gratification”.

John Taylor, 62, was serving a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 30 years following his abduction and murder of 16-year-old Leanne Tiernan in Leeds in 2000.

On Friday, Judge Robin Mairs listened to two hours of shocking details of other “vile, sadistic attacks” on five women and children committed by Taylor between 1977 and 1996, including one on a terrified seven-year-old girl and another which was witnessed by his pregnant victim’s three small children.

Taylor, who admitted a range of offences including multiple rapes at an earlier hearing, showed no emotion as Judge Mairs said he had no choice but to impose a life sentence with a whole life tariff, telling him there is “no doubt that you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life”.

Taylor appeared by video-link at Leeds Crown Court from Wakefield Prison, wearing a grey open-neck shirt and sporting greying hair.

The judge said Taylor’s offending included “vile, sadistic attacks on women and small children marked by ferocity and callousness”.

Judge Mairs heard how many of Taylor’s victims harboured feelings of guilt and anger about the murder of Leanne, wondering if she would be alive today if their case had been solved or if they had reported it earlier.

The court heard one victim said: “When I heard about Leanne Tiernan I felt guilty. I wondered what if I had reported sooner what Taylor did to me.”

Judge Mairs heard how one woman was seven years old when she was grabbed by Taylor in 1984, carried to a church yard and tied to a drain pipe before she was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

He later taunted her outside her home.

Judge Mairs said: “The trauma, fear and nightmares that would have engendered in that child are beyond comprehension.”

He said: “There’s a chilling echo to be found in what happened to (that girl) and what happened to Leanne Tiernan.”

Prosecutor Stephen Wood said that in 1982, Taylor held a knife to the throat of a 27-year-old woman who was walking with her son and daughters, who were all aged under eight, and demanded that she perform a sex act on him.

Taylor fled after her daughters, who feared they were about to see their mother murdered, screamed.

Another woman raped by Taylor explained how she felt “hatred and loathing” for police 20 years ago when she was told “to get on with my life and forget what happened to me”.

Mr Wood told the judge: “All these offences demonstrate the defendant’s long standing, violent and sadistic proclivities towards vulnerable women and female children.

“He became ever more emboldened over time before finally committing the murder of Leanne Tiernan.”

Leanne was snatched by Taylor in November 2000 and subjected to sexual assaults before he killed her.

Her body was found in woodland eight months later.

Police later discovered the body had been kept for some time in Taylor’s freezer at his home in the Bramley area of Leeds, where he was nicknamed The Pet Man.

The court heard how this was partly down to Taylor wanting to keep a trophy.

Taylor was jailed for life in 2002 with a minimum tariff of 25 years but this was later reduced to 20 years.

A year later, he was convicted of two further masked knifepoint rapes dating back to 1988 and 1989 and his minimum term was increased to 30 years.

Taylor’s decades of offending was pieced together following a cold case review called Operation Quayside, which involved West Yorkshire Police, the National Crime Agency and forensic services.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Jim Dunkerley, of West Yorkshire Police, described Taylor as a “monster”.

When asked whether there might be further victims of the murderer, he added: “John Taylor, as we have seen today, would be described as a monster. He has committed horrendous acts.

“I will continue to review all the undetected cases that we have, and John Taylor may feature in there, but I have to say that I have to look at it objectively and look at other offenders who may be within that case lodge.”

 

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.”

European Court Rules Whole Life Sentences Lawful

Arthur Hutchinson
Arthur Hutchinson

Triple killer Arthur Hutchinson, who murdered three members of the same family in Sheffield, has lost his challenge at the European Court of Human Rights against his whole-life prison sentence.

The judgment is the latest development in the protracted legal wrangle over “life means life” terms.

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

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”.

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

But judges ruled on Tuesday 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.

Court of Appeal judges ruled last year that the Grand Chamber was wrong when it said 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 Tuesday’s judgment the European judges found by a majority that they consider the legal situation in the UK to be in line with human rights laws.

In their written ruling, they said: “In the circumstances of this case where, following the Grand Chamber’s judgment in which it expressed doubts about the clarity of domestic law, the national court has specifically addressed those doubts and set out an unequivocal statement of the legal position, the court must accept the national court’s interpretation of domestic law.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said he was disappointed by the ruling.

Mr Leech said: “I wish they had been more courageous, there were grounds for doing so, but I suspect they were concerned not to increase the already trenchant criticism of the ECHR interferring in UK domestic matters.”

The list of whole-lifers includes some of the most notorious prisoners in Britain, including one-eyed police killer Dale Cregan, who lured Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone to their deaths in a gun and grenade attack; Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones; and Moors murderer Ian Brady.

Six years ago, Hutchinson had a domestic appeal against whole-life tariffs kicked out by the Court of Appeal.

The judge in his original 1984 trial at Sheffield Crown Court ruled that he should serve 18 years but then-home secretary Leon Brittan later ruled he should face the whole-life tariff.

Whole Life sentences for police or prison officer killers

creganbone

Criminals who kill police or prison officers in the course of duty are to face whole-life jail sentences.

Changes to the law by the Ministry of Justice will mean judges will start by considering a whole-life tariff when deciding the sentence for killing either a police or prison officer in the course of their duty, up from the current starting point of a 30-year minimum term

Judges would retain the discretion to determine the appropriate sentence in each case – a whole life term will not be mandatory.

There have been 13 direct killings of police officers in the course of duty since 2000 – including the murder of Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes by one-eyed Dale Cregan in Greater Manchester, who was handed a whole-life tariff.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Police officers play a vital role in keeping communities safe. As has been tragically demonstrated in recent years, this role is a dangerous one which can lead to officers paying the ultimate price while serving their community.

“On a daily basis, prison officers are also asked to protect the public by dealing with violent offenders and standing in the way of criminals in order to keep the peace.

“It is essential that police and prison officers feel the full weight of the state is behind them as they fulfil their crucial duties. Changing the starting point for this offence sends a clear message that the Government supports the work that these vital public servants play.”

The measure is being introduced by an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

Most recently, PC Andrew Duncan, 47, was hit by a car in Sutton, south London, while checking vehicle speeds in September.

Gary Cody admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for eight and a half years.

Other measures in the Bill include making criminals contribute towards costs of running the courts by imposing a new charge at point of conviction.

The Bill will also introduce a new offence with a punishment of up to two years in prison for criminals who go on the run while serving the non-custodial element of their sentence.

Other changes will bring an end to the automatic half-way point release for criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child, or serious terrorism offences.

Lee Rigby Murderers Sentenced Today

Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale
Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale

Wednesday February 26, 2014.

Sentencing was delayed by Mr Justice Sweeney to allow time for a specially-constituted court to decide if “whole-life” tariffs can still be handed to criminals who have committed the very worst of crimes. Mr Justice Sweeney’s move was a clear signal that a whole-life order – that is, sentenced to life in prison with no minimum term or chance for a Parole Board review – was firmly on the table for at least one of the defendants.

It is still down to Mr Justice Sweeney to decide if a whole-life term is appropriate. Last week, a panel of five judges, including the most senior judge in England and Wales,

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, declared that sentencing judges can continue to impose whole-life tariffs. The guidance comes in the wake of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights last year in an appeal by three murderers.

More follows…

‘Whole Life’ Sentences Lawful Says Court – But ‘Right Wing’ Say Critics –

Subhan Anwar - child killer murdered in prison
Subhan Anwar – child killer murdered in prison

Leading judges gave a crucial ruling backing the use of whole-life sentences today – which was criticised as ‘right wing’ by commentators.

A panel of five judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, announced their decision on controversial “life-means-life” orders at the Court of Appeal in London.

The judges increased the 40-year minimum prison term being served by killer Ian McLoughlin, who murdered a man while on day release, to a whole-life tariff.

And they dismissed an appeal by Lee Newell, who murdered a child killer while in prison, against the whole-life order imposed in his case.

Sentencing in a number of high-profile criminal cases has been put on hold – including the terms to be handed out to soldier Lee Rigby’s murderers – pending the judgment.

The Government has said that whole-life tariffs are “wholly justified in the most heinous cases”.

Reacting to today’s ruling Attorney General Dominic Grieve said on Twitter: “I am pleased CoA (Court of Appeal) has confirmed those who commit the most heinous crimes can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.”

Mr Grieve added: “As someone who has killed three times, Ian McLoughlin committed just such a crime, and following today’s judgment he has received the sentence that crime required.

“I asked the Court of Appeal to look again at McLoughlin’s original sentence because I did not think that the European Court of Human Rights had said anything which prevented our courts from handing down whole life terms in the most serious cases.

“The Court of Appeal has agreed with me and today’s judgment gives the clarity our judges need when they are considering sentencing cases like this in the future.”

Lord Thomas said the court had held that the statutory scheme enacted by Parliament which enabled judges to pass whole-life orders was “entirely compatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Judges should therefore continue as they have done to impose whole-life orders in those rare and exceptional cases which fall within the statutory scheme.

“Under the statutory scheme as enacted by Parliament, the Secretary of State has power to release a prisoner on licence if he is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist which justify the prisoner’s release on compassionate grounds.”

He added that the court had given guidance as to the meaning of that under domestic law.

At a hearing in January, Lord Thomas, Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Burnett were urged to find that imposing sentences which mean a prisoner can never be released are not “manifestly excessive or wrong in principle”.

Such terms were deemed a breach of human rights following a successful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by murderers Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.

Last year the trio won a ruling that their whole-life sentences amount to “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Whole-lifers should be entitled to a review of their sentence 25 years into their term at the very latest, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court said.

The ruling by 17 judges from across Europe sparked further outrage among critics of the court – despite reassurances that the decision did not amount to grounds for imminent release.

As well as dealing with the appeal by Newell, who murdered child killer Subhan Anwar, they were asked to decide if the 40 years imposed in McLoughlin’s case could be regarded as “unduly lenient” and should be increased.

In the case of McLoughlin, the judges heard that he was aware of the proceedings but did not wish for any argument or representations to be made on his behalf.

His stance was explained to the court by barrister Kevin McCartney, who said McLoughlin had not considered the legal aspect, but had approached it from a “purely personal approach”.

It appeared from letters written by McLoughlin that he had been “very anxious at the sentencing hearing” and that this was a “sentiment that carried on… not to act in any way that would cause any further distress to the deceased’s family”.

Mr McCartney said: “That is a factor that played very heavily, as I understand it, in his attitude towards these proceedings.”

It was successfully argued on behalf of the Attorney General that the “failure to impose a whole-life order renders the sentence unduly lenient”.

On behalf of Newell, Joe Stone QC, in seeking permission to appeal against sentence, argued that a whole-life term was “manifestly excessive”.

Newell, now 45, challenged a whole-life sentence imposed last September at Warwick Crown Court.

He was convicted alongside Gary Smith for the February 2013 murder of convicted child killer Anwar in his cell at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire. Newell was already serving a life sentence for a previous murder committed in 1988.

Triple killer McLoughlin, 55, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last October for stabbing a man on his first day-release from prison after 21 years in custody.

When sentencing McLoughlin, the trial judge imposed a 40-year tariff, saying he could not pass a whole-life term because of the European court ruling.

McLoughlin – who had killed twice before – stabbed Graham Buck, 66, as he came to the aid of a neighbour in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, last July.

Those currently serving whole-life terms in England and Wales include Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children along with accomplice Myra Hindley, and serial killer Rosemary West.

Mr Justice Sweeney has said he will wait to sentence Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebolajo, and Michael Adebowale, until after the Court of Appeal decision. No date has yet been fixed for that sentencing hearing.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This is a timely and welcome decision. Our courts should be able to send the most brutal murderers to jail for the rest of their lives.

“I think people in Britain will be glad that our courts have disagreed with the European Court of Human Rights, and upheld the law that the UK Parliament has passed.”

Lord Thomas said: “These two cases are exceptional and rare cases of second murders committed by persons serving the custodial part of a life sentence.

“The making of a whole-life order requires detailed consideration of the individual circumstances of each case.

“It is likely to be rare that the circumstances will be such that a whole-life order is required.”

Lord Thomas said that “although there may be debate in a democratic society as to whether a judge should have the power to make a whole-life order”, it was evident in the court’s view that “there are some crimes that are so heinous that Parliament was entitled to proscribe, compatibly with the Convention, that the requirements of just punishment encompass passing a sentence which includes a whole-life order”.

Lord Thomas said the Strasbourg court held last July that there had been a violation of Article 3 – inhuman and degrading treatment – in relation to whole-life orders on the basis that they were “not reducible”.

He said the Court of Appeal did not read the Grand Chamber’s judgment “as in any way casting doubt on the fact that there are crimes that are so heinous that just punishment may require imprisonment for life”.

He added: “There may be legitimate dispute as to what such crimes are – at one end genocide or mass murder of the kind committed in Europe in living memory or, at the other, murder by a person who has committed other murders, but that there are such crimes cannot be doubted.”

He said: “Under our constitution it is for Parliament to decide whether there are such crimes and to set the framework under which the judge decides in an individual case whether a whole-life order is the just punishment.”

Lord Thomas said: “We therefore conclude that no specific passage in the judgment, nor the judgment read as a whole, in any way seek to impugn the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, as enacted by Parliament, which entitle a judge to make at the time of sentence a whole-life order as a sentence reflecting just punishment.”

In their ruling the five judges concluded that the sentencing regime established by Parliament does provide for “reducibility”.

They ruled that the Grand Chamber was wrong when it reached a conclusion that the law of England and Wales did not clearly provide for reducibility.

In the Court of Appeal’s view the domestic law “is clear as to ‘possible exceptional release of whole-life prisoners’.”

A power of review arose if there were “exceptional circumstances”. An offender was required to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that although a whole-life order was just punishment at the time the order was made, exceptional circumstances had arisen since.

The Secretary of State “must then consider whether such exceptional circumstances justify the release on compassionate grounds”.

Lord Thomas concluded: “In our judgment the law of England and Wales therefore does provide to an offender ‘hope’ or the ‘possibility’ of release in exceptional circumstances which render the just punishment originally imposed no longer justifiable.”

Ruling on the McLoughlin case the Court of Appeal said the sentencing judge did not think he had the power to make a whole-life order, but he was “in error”.

The seriousness of the case was “exceptionally high”, and just punishment required a whole-life order – 40 years was unduly lenient.

In a letter written by McLoughlin to his lawyers explaining why he did not want representations made on his behalf, he said: “It is just that I believe I deserve the whole-life tariff which the AG is seeking and that the family of Graham Buck deserves to know officially that I will never be released.”

In Newell’s case, Lord Thomas said: “The murder was premeditated and involved the use of an improvised weapon. It occurred in prison whilst Newell continued to serve a life sentence. The deceased took a significant time to die.

“There was no mitigation. This was a murder where the seriousness of the offence was exceptionally high. The judge was right in making a whole-life order. This appeal is accordingly dismissed.”

However Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales, criticised the judgment as ‘right wing.’

Mr Leech said: “I am not against whole life tariffs in principle, for the most heinous crimes it is absolutely right that society must be able to lock the door and throw away the key.

“But the point of a review of such a sentence 20 or 25 years after it was imposed, as held by the European Court of Human Rights, is crucially important in terms of fairness even if nothing changes when those reviews take place.

“It should not be the case that a whole life prisoner should have to prove exceptional circumstances before a review takes place – all whole life sentences should be reviewed 20 or 25 years after they are imposed because they are effectively a death sentence, a sentence of death in jail, and a review of all such sentences would show that British Justice goes that extra mile of fairness for which it has become famed around the world.

“Sadly today’s judgement shows that we currently have the most right-wing higher Courts since the days of Lord Chief Justice Goddard in the 1950’s, our senior judges – who are all appointed by the Queen on the political recommendation of the Prime Minister it must be remembered – have today shown they have little respect for human rights and they have done so-called British Justice a huge disservice by serving their political masters rather than the rights of those people they swore to uphold.”

“Distasteful”: Ministers Plan To Sidestep Human Rights Ruling

Paedophile Robert Black given a Whole Life term
Paedophile Robert Black given a Whole Life term

Murderers and those convicted of other serious offences could be given sentences lasting hundreds of years to sidestep European regulations that ban whole-life terms, it is reported – which one critic called ‘distasteful’..

Ministers are considering introducing the lengthy sentences to get around a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the Daily Telegraph said.

The court last year declared that whole-life tariffs, which can be imposed by English judges, were a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because they allowed for no “right to review”.

Allowing judges to sentence criminals for hundreds of years is one of the options the government is considering to overcome the human rights ban.

Sentences of extreme length would effectively amount to the same as a whole-life term, but would still allow for prisoners to have their sentence reviewed and potentially reduced.

A government source told the Telegraph: “The European Court of Human Rights seems to be making decisions a million miles away from what the vast majority of the public think.

“They don’t want any possibility of the most horrible of criminals walking the streets again, and this plan could be a way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

There are 49 prisoners serving whole-life terms in England and Wales. One killer, Ian McLoughlin, who was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for murdering a man while on day release from another murder sentence in July, avoided a whole-life term because of the ECHR ruling, the Telegraph said.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said side-stepping court judgements was not the way for any government to behave.

“There is something quite distasteful about this Goverment’s constant chipping away at Human Rights legislation and court judgements – and this attempt to sidestep a court ruling is not the way for any government to behave.

“Instead of sidestepping judgements with some deft but dishonest legislative changes they should instead comply with the court’s ruling and ensure that those given whole life terms have the chance to have those terms reviewed after serving 25 years – the chances are nothing will change anyway, but at least they should be given the chance to argue their case.”

Cregan to die in jail

cregan

One-eyed police killer Dale Cregan is set to die in prison with a whole life sentence for murdering four people after his long-running trial came to an end today.

Cregan, 30, had previously pleaded guilty during the trial to killing policewomen Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, and father and son David Short, 46, and Mark Short, 23, last year.

He also admitted the attempted murders of three others and causing an explosion with a hand-grenade.

A jury at Preston Crown Court today found him not guilty of one remaining count of attempted murder involving a grenade attack on Sharon Hark, which he denied.

Cregan went on the run days before he killed David Short last August after he gunned down his son, Mark, in a pub in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, three months earlier.

The manhunt reached a ghastly conclusion on September 18 when he lured the unarmed constables with a bogus 999 call to a house in Abbey Gardens in Hattersley.

He gave a false name as he reported a concrete slab had been thrown through a back window.

His last comment to the call handler as he was told officers were on the way was: “I’ll be waiting.”

He opened the front door as they walked up the front garden path and immediately shot them in the chest with a Glock handgun.

Cregan shot Pc Hughes eight times, including three strikes to the head as she lay on the ground.

Pc Bone was hit up to eight times after she managed to draw and fire her Taser as Cregan discharged 32 bullets in total in barely half a minute.

He then left his “calling card” of a military grenade which he threw it on the path where the two officers lay.

The killer then dropped his gun and drove a short distance to Hyde police station where he calmly walked up to the counter clerk and said: “I’m wanted by the police and I’ve just done two coppers.”

Cregan put his arms out to be handcuffed and said he was there to hand himself in.

He then told an officer: “I dropped the gun at the scene and I’ve murdered two police officers. You were hounding my family so I took it out on yous.”

On May 25 last year a balaclava-clad Cregan stepped into the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden and shot Mark Short who died in the arms of his father David.

On August 10, Cregan targeted David Short outside his home in Clayton, Greater Manchester as he unloaded furniture from his car.

He chased him through and out of his house and shot him numerous times before a grenade was thrown at him with “devastating consequences” for his torso – the first time a military grenade had been deployed in the country in this way.

Cregan was on trial with nine other men who faced allegations concerning the deaths of either David or Mark Short.

The first lot of verdicts were delivered in silence in the packed courtroom save for some stiffled gasps as not guilty verdicts were returned on some counts.

Fiona Bone’s sister, Vicky Bone shook her head and her father Paul Bone leaned back in his seat.

David Short’s wife Michelle Kelly also shook her head, sat beside her other members of her family wiped away tears.

Verdicts were also returned on the nine other defendants.

Leon Atkinson, 35, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Ryan Hadfield, 29, from Droylsden, and Matthew James, 33, from Clayton, were cleared of the murder of Mark Short in the Cotton Tree pub and the attempted murders of three others in the pub.

Luke Livesey, 28, from Hattersley, and Damian Gorman, 38, from Glossop, were found guilty of those charges

Anthony Wilkinson, 34, from Beswick, pleaded guilty during the trial to murdering David Short and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. He was cleared of one count of the attempted murder of Mrs Hark on the same day and cleared of causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Francis Dixon, 38, from Stalybridge, was acquitted of the murder of David Short, the attempted murder of Mrs Hark and causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Jermaine Ward, 24, was found guilty of the murder of David Short but cleared of the attempted murder of Mrs Hark and causing an explosion with a hand grenade.

Mohammed Ali, 32, from Chadderton, was found guilty of assisting an offender.

The Crown had alleged that last summer’s violence was sparked by a “long-standing feud” between two rival Manchester families – the Shorts and the Atkinsons.

The Cotton Tree shooting was said to have been ordered by Atkinson and carried out by Cregan with the help of others.

Proceedings were adjourned until 2.15pm by Mr Justice Holroyde when he will hear mitigation.

Sentencing may follow today.

Cregan smiled and shook hands with the other defendants after the verdicts. His co-accused Wilkinson looked directly at the public gallery where the victims’ families were seated, with a broad smile on his face.

At 1.10pm, on the 77th day of the trial, and on the sixth day of deliberations, the jury came back into court with unanimous verdicts on all counts, but the defendants were ordered to remain seated as the verdicts were given.

Atkinson, the man accused of organising the initial murder, looked at the floor and put a hand on his head as he was cleared of all charges.

Dixon shouted “Yes!” as he was cleared. Ward, sitting behind him, burst into tears.

As Cregan was cleared of the remaining count he faced, there was a shout of “Yeah!” from the back of the dock and Cregan turned around with a smile.

Trial judge Mr Justice Holroyde QC told the jury that matters may be concluded today, with the convicted defendants sentenced, later this afternoon, subject to legal discussions.

Roderick Carus QC, defending Atkinson, asked for his client to be discharged, along with those of the other defendants cleared of all charges – Hadfield, James, and Dixon.

Dixon is on a life licence for his past serious convictions, which the jury was not told about as they were ruled inadmissible.

Cregan shook hands with Wilkinson and Ali as they were taken down past him in the dock.

Some of the senior police detectives looked grim-faced as they left court.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said Cregan typified the kind of individual that deserved to die in jail.

“So often we hear of prison sentences being handed out to those who could easily be dealt with in the community – Cregan represents the kind of dangerous individual who belongs at the extreme far end of that offending scale and rightly he should die in jail.

“All those he murdered had a right to life, they each had loved ones and all of them had a right to a future – the two police officers he murdered ironically came to what they thought was his aid and he butchered them; he deserves to die in jail.”