|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but otherwise I should have to do it later. Surely the noble Viscount must agree that that was increasing the penalty beyond what was expected earlier, when the crime had not got any worse.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that intervention, but perhaps I can just go on to this point. The difference between any debates that we have had on this subject and this one is that we have had a chance to have the debate since the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House found that the imposition of a life tariff was entirely consistent with the law. If I may say to the noble Earl, the Home Secretary's decision--the noble Earl understandably questions the competence of politicians to make these decisions--was unequivocally fortified by the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House.
In addition to the unanimous findings of that committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyne, who made the judgment which most of the other Lords of Appeal followed, referred to the submission by Hindley's counsel that the whole life tariff was disproportionate. I am tempted to quote in toto from his findings on that point: however, I shall repeat just two sentences.
The noble Earl invites us to forgive. However, there is a difference between personal forgiveness and forgiveness by the state. There will, I am sure, be many individuals who take the view that, with 35 years of incarceration, Hindley has paid for her crimes and shown true repentance. But every test of opinion shows that those people are in a substantial minority. That may be so, but I suggest that the state does not have that option. In any consideration of what remission the state will grant an offender, regard must
With great sadness I have to say to your Lordships that we have crossed the borderline beyond which any idea of tempering retribution does not fall to be considered. There is the element of retribution and also that of deterrence. The fact that in the intervening period there has mercifully been nothing like it in its dreadfulness, and an absence of the copycat which so often is a feature of these crimes, in our view justifies this life sentence. But here again we feel that the exemplary element of the sentence must continue to run. So we are in accord with the Home Secretary's decision that life must mean life. Though I am sure the noble Earl is aware--indeed, he has referred to this--that there are provisions in these cases for periodic review by the Home Secretary, he should not attach any hope to a decision in Hindley's favour.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Earl's intervention again. Mine is a personal view, but it is also the view of my party. There have been two totally ad idem decisions by successive Home Secretaries, and I leave that matter there.
One further point to which the noble Earl has not referred relates to the families of the murdered children. There are alive at least one parent of a child to whose murder Hindley has either confessed or of which she has been convicted, whose body has never been found. In one case a brother had to visit Hindley in prison to see whether any clues could be found, but to no avail. I ask your Lordships whether society can live with having in the same community someone responsible for that murder.
We have to consider not only the parents of those whose bodies have never been found, but also the brothers, sisters and wider families of the other victims who have suffered and continue to suffer. I fear that Hindley has not fully paid and will never fully pay for that suffering.
However, once again I pay tribute to the noble Earl for all the effort he undoubtedly put into this cause. We from these Benches cannot agree to his plea for her release. The legality of the Home Secretary's decision on a life tariff has been unanimously endorsed by the Court of Appeal of your Lordships' House and we agree with the judgment of a life tariff, endorsing as it did that of my right honourable friend Mr Michael Howard, now made again by the right honourable Mr Jack Straw. The degree of evil inherent in this crime leaves him, in our view, with no alternative.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I wonder whether I may put a question to the noble Viscount before he sits down. It is true that Myra Hindley was guilty of the most appalling, dreadful crimes, but the trial judge was
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. The view of my party is that life does mean life. But, as has been said before, there are provisions for review. That is perhaps the justice that he would seek. So, life does mean life.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Longford has a long and honourable record in supporting and visiting prisoners. I am sure that we all acknowledge his real concern for their welfare. However, that does not always mean that we have to agree with everything that he says and does in this field. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, observed, we ought also to acknowledge that my noble friend has campaigned vigorously for Myra Hindley's release over many years.
Before I refer to the offences for which Myra Hindley was convicted, and the reasons for her continued imprisonment, I wish to refer briefly to the background to the mandatory life sentence. Parliament decided in 1965 when capital punishment for murder was effectively abolished that there should be a mandatory sentence for murder of life imprisonment. But despite many opportunities for the law to be changed since then, Parliament has continued to maintain the position that the mandatory life sentence is the appropriate penalty for the most heinous and appalling crime of murder.
The Government have no intention of bringing forward proposals to change the mandatory sentence for murder. Nor does my right honourable friend the Home Secretary intend to give up the responsibility entrusted to him by Parliament for deciding if and when the case of a mandatory life sentence prisoner should be referred to the Parole Board. He believes that his exercise of that quasi-judicial function, for which he is answerable both to the courts and to Parliament, generally continues to carry the confidence of the public.
It would not be an appropriate function for the Parole Board to decide on how long a person should serve for the purpose of punishment. The Parole Board directs release in the case of discretionary life sentence cases, and advises on release in mandatory life sentence cases, only after the tariff period set by the courts or the Secretary of State has expired.
It has long been recognised by successive Home Secretaries that there are some murders so terrible that the perpetrators should be required to serve the whole of their life sentences in custody. For example, in December 1966, during the Second Reading of the
In practice, only a small number of whole life tariffs have been set. There are at present just 23 people, including Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, in custody with whole life tariffs. Like all tariffs, these tariffs have been set to reflect what is regarded as the necessary period to be served for the purposes of retribution and deterrence. They do not relate to present or future risk. That issue becomes relevant only when the tariff period has expired. Nor does the tariff set initially take into account exceptional circumstances, including exceptional progress in prison. That, too, is a separate issue which may result in a reduction of tariff. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has undertaken to consider representations on this basis from Myra Hindley, and nothing I have to say this evening should be taken as prejudicing his consideration of those representations.
I turn now to the circumstances of the particular case raised by my noble friend Lord Longford. Although I do not propose to go into unnecessary details about the offences of which Myra Hindley was convicted or those to which she subsequently confessed, I believe it only right that I should briefly set out the facts. Myra Hindley was convicted at Chester Assizes on 6th May 1966 of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey, aged 10, and Edward Evans, aged 17. At the same time, she was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to the murder of John Kilbride, age 12.
John Kilbride had disappeared from the streets on 23rd November 1963, after leaving home to go to the cinema. His body was found in a shallow grave on Saddleworth Moor on 21st October 1965. His body was clothed but the trousers and underpants that he had been wearing were pulled down to mid-thigh and the underpants appeared to be knotted at the back.
Lesley Ann Downey disappeared on Boxing Day 1964, after going to a fairground with a friend. On 15th October 1965, eight days after the arrest of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the police traced two suitcases in the left luggage office at Manchester Central station. They contained pornographic books and books on torture, diaries belonging to the couple, photographs and negatives and two recording tapes. The photographs included some of Lesley Ann Downey naked, except for shoes and socks, and in obscene poses. A scarf was tied around her mouth. One of the tapes recorded her crying, asking not to be undressed and pleading simply to be allowed to go home to her mother. Her naked body was found on 16th October 1965 in a shallow peat grave on Saddleworth Moor. Her clothing, shoes and a string of beads were buried beside her.
Edward Evans was last seen alive by his family when he left home at about 6.30 p.m. on 6th October 1965 to go to a football match. Myra Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, telephoned the police on 7th October to say that he had witnessed a murder in the house where Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were living. The police discovered Edward Evans' body later that day, trussed up in a polythene bag in a bedroom of the house. Lying near the body was another polythene bag containing a blood-stained axe.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson, made no recommendation at the time, or at any subsequent time, as to how long should be served as a minimum for the offences of murder for which Ian Brady and Myra Hindley had been convicted. In his letter to the Home Secretary, two days after the end of the trial, he wrote:
At trial, and for 20 years afterwards, Myra Hindley denied that she had taken any part in these three murders. She admitted only to what could not be denied and what she described as "two anti-social acts"--first, not reporting Edward Evans' death to the police and, secondly, assisting in taking nude pictures of Lesley Ann Downey. She denied all previous knowledge of John Kilbride or any previous knowledge that Lesley Ann Downey had been murdered. She accused her brother-in-law of having brought Lesley Ann Downey to the house to have the nude pictures taken and having taken her away afterwards unharmed.
In 1985, a journalist reported that Ian Brady had confessed to other murders and the Greater Manchester Police eventually decided to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of Keith Bennett and Pauline Reade. Preparations were made for a full-scale search of the moors to attempt to discover their bodies, concentrating on areas narrowed down from photographs. Just before the searches started, the senior police officer in charge of the investigation visited Myra Hindley at Cookham Wood Prison and told her that he had good scientific reasons for believing that bodies buried there 20 or more years before could still be intact. He made clear that whether or not she agreed to help, he might well find them. After some thought, Myra Hindley agreed to look at photographs and maps of the moors to point out places that had been of particular interest to Ian Brady. She agreed, as did Ian Brady, to help the police in their searches of the moors.
After her first visit to the moors on 16th December 1986, the search was called off for the winter. Before the search resumed in March 1987, Myra Hindley had given her detailed account to the police of her part in the killing of five young people--Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans. After her second visit to the moors in March, the intensive police search resumed. But it was
Myra Hindley was convicted of two murders in 1966, the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans. In relation to those two murder convictions the trial judge reported, as I have already said, that the only possible recommendation he could have made at the time was that neither she nor Ian Brady should ever be set free again. It was against this background that Lord Lane, when asked for his views on an appropriate punitive period, suggested that 25 years would be a minimum. That was his opinion. He was not empowered to set a tariff and the tariff was never set at 25 years. Ministers decided for the first time in 1985 that provisional tariffs should be set at 30 years for Myra Hindley and 40 years for Ian Brady. These provisional tariffs were not disclosed to them.
When the tariffs came to be reconsidered in 1990 by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, the then Home Secretary, he had much fuller information about the offences of which Myra Hindley had been convicted and the context in which those murders had been carried out. I must emphasise that tariff is set on the basis of murder convictions. However, it is quite proper that further information about the circumstances and context of offences, which comes to light after conviction, can be taken into account in deciding the level at which the tariff should be set.
In 1990 it had become clear beyond doubt that the two appalling murders of which Myra Hindley had been convicted were the last two of five separate murders, carefully pre-planned for sexual and sadistic purposes, which had been committed over a period of two and a quarter years, the last of which was committed when Myra Hindley was 23 years old. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, decided, in consideration of those facts, that the appropriate tariff for the murders of which she had been convicted was whole life. The charge is sometimes made that that decision was taken for the purpose of political gain. I believe that is unfair. Certainly there was no immediate political advantage to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, the then Home Secretary. Tariffs were not then publicly disclosable, nor were they expected to become so. Neither Myra Hindley, nor anyone else, was told what her tariff was.
As a result of a decision of your Lordships' House in 1993 in the case of Doody and others, the gist of judicial recommendations and tariffs set were required to be disclosed. Disclosure was made to Myra Hindley in December 1994 and she was invited to make representations before her tariff was reconsidered.
In November 1997 solicitors acting for Myra Hindley asked my right honourable friend the Home Secretary whether he proposed to stand by her whole life tariff. In a Written Answer in another place on 1st December 1997 he stated that he had looked at the papers considered by his predecessor, which included descriptions of the crimes for which she had been convicted, the judicial comments made in her case, and the representations, and saw no reason to depart from that decision. He added that he would consider further representations made on the subject of whether the whole life tariff should be reduced by reasons of exceptional progress by her.
Your Lordships will know that Myra Hindley has challenged her tariff through the courts by way of judicial review. Following the hearing of the case in December 1997, the Divisional Court, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, unanimously upheld the lawfulness of whole life tariffs in principle and the decision to set a whole life tariff in this case. The Court of Appeal, presided over by the Master of the Rolls, unanimously dismissed her appeal against that decision on 5th November 1998, but granted her leave to appeal to your Lordships' House. The Appellate Committee, which heard her further appeal, gave its decision on 30th March. In a unanimous judgment drafted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, the appeal was dismissed.
I have set out our reasoning at length. I have also briefly gone through the reasonable grounds that successive Home Secretaries have given in setting a whole life tariff. We see no need to depart from those grounds now or in the future.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I assure him that, speaking on behalf of all who are interested in the good treatment of prisoners, his reply--I do not blame him for it; it comes from elsewhere--was one of horror.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|