One of the most famous UK criminal law cases over the past 30 years took a new twist after Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, this week lodged an appeal against a high court ruling forbidding his release.
The court stated earlier this year Sutcliffe would never be set free as he posed a threat to public safety. He was given a ‘whole-life tariff’ sentence on 16 July by Mr Justice Mitting.
But the former lorry driver from Bradford who murdered 13 women over a six year killing spree and attempted to kill seven more, is arguing a severe mental disorder he was suffering at the time of the killings means he should be held only for a “finite” number of years under UK criminal law.
Acting on behalf of Sutcliffe, Edward Fitzgerald QC said the court of appeal has the power to overturn the jury’s courtroom 1981 verdict that Sutcliffe should serve 20 life terms.
Fitzgerald believes the evidence pointing towards the defendant’s mental disorder at the time of the crimes provides a strong case for diminished responsibility.
“The sole submission in this case is that the disorder suffered, and still suffered, by the applicant is a sufficient mitigating circumstance to justify a long finite term of years instead of a whole-life tariff,” said Fitzgerald.
Should the criminal law be changed to accommodate Peter Sutcliffe’s plea for a ‘long finite term’ over a ‘whole tariff’ sentence?
Can Sutcliffe’s schizophrenia fully justify the deaths of 13 innocent women?
And what are the dangers of one of the UK’s most brutal mass murderers being released into the public?
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- Yorkshire Ripper begins appeal against whole-life tariff (Guardian.co.uk)
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- Learn more about criminal law (Findlaw.co.uk)
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