'Yorkshire Ripper' must die behind bars: British court

16th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

One of Britain's most notorious serial killers, "Yorkshire Ripper" Peter Sutcliffe, must spend the rest of his life in jail, the High Court ruled Friday.

Sutcliffe was convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others in Yorkshire and in Manchester, northern England.

He received 20 life sentences and is detained at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital in southeast England.

The 64-year-old, now known as Peter Coonan, applied to have a minimum term set to give him the chance of parole, but his bid was rejected.

Judge John Mitting ruled that "early release provisions" were "not to apply" in the case.

The judge said he had based his decision on the "moving accounts of the great loss and widespread permanent harm" in statements by relatives of six murdered victims.

"This was a campaign of murder which terrorised the population of a large part of Yorkshire for several years," he said.

"The only explanation for it, on the jury's verdict, was anger, hatred and obsession.

"Apart from a terrorist outrage, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which one man could account for so many victims.

"Those circumstances alone make it appropriate to set a whole life term."

Sutcliffe's original judge said he must serve a minimum of 30 years behind bars -- a period which expires next year.

The truck driver's murderous campaign against prostitutes and young women between 1975 and 1980 sparked widespread fear across the country until he was arrested in January 1981.

He would batter women over the head with a hammer and stab them in the chest and abdomen with a knife or a screwdriver.

In February 2009, Britain's then prime minister Gordon Brown had said it was "very unlikely" Sutcliffe would be released.

The latest court bid revolved around a November 2006 medical report by Doctor Kevin Murray, who is treating Sutcliffe.

Murray said it was his "blunt and firm conclusion" that the 1981 verdicts of guilty to murder were wrong.

If verdicts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility had been accepted by the prosecution or returned by the jury, then Sutcliffe could have been sentenced to an unlimited stay in psychiatric hospital.

But at the High Court in London, Mitting said he had "no doubt" that the appropriate term was a whole life sentence.

The "brutality and gravity of the offences speak for themselves", he said.

The diagnoses of psychiatrists who had considered Sutcliffe's mental condition was that he was "suffering from encapsulated paranoid schizophrenia when he committed the crimes and that his responsibility for the 13 killings was, in consequence, substantially diminished," the judge said.

"These propositions were, however, unquestionably rejected by the jury," he added.

"As a matter of principle, it is for the jury, not the judge, to decide whether a person's responsibility for killing is diminished by reason of mental abnormality."

© 2010 AFP

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