Leading Article: Give Myra Hindley a fair hearing

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THE CRIMES that Myra Hindley and Ian Brady committed more than 30 years ago still appal. Their inhumanity stands even after we have lived through so many other seeming acts of evil, even after Mary Bell, even after the murder of Jamie Bulger. There are many aspects of the story that still have the power to affect us. We might have been forgiven for believing that, with all the curiosity, all the investigations and all the media coverage over these past decades, we would know all the significant facts about this case.

But the new claims by Hindley, that she was herself systematically brutalised by Brady, lend weight to the suspicion which, until now, has remained just that; that Brady did indeed have some sort of "hold" over Hindley. If the evidence that Hindley is offering is genuine, then, however distasteful, it is right that we should consider whether her continued detention is justified.

This does not, of course, mean that we should automatically accept Hindley's word or her evidence as representing the whole of the story. The exact extent of the amount of free will she was able to exercise all those years ago, and in such unimaginable circumstances, is difficult, if not impossible, to judge.

It is reasonable to subject Hindley's claims and the evidence she offers to the closest possible scrutiny. It is curious, for example, that it has taken her so long to offer this evidence.

Above all, it is important that any consideration of the merits or otherwise of Hindley's release remains objective, and as free as it can be of understandable emotional reaction. We do not feel any less sympathy for the relatives of those who were so cruelly murdered, when we recognise a case for justice through the normal and due processes of the law. Political considerations, so often driven by a hysterical press determined to hound the woman to her grave, should not affect the decision. This is not necessarily to advocate her release; it is, though, right to raise questions about equity, justice and, indeed, humane treatment.

Hindley committed terrible crimes. She deserved to be punished for those crimes, and society has a right to be protected from those who pose a threat. But she deserves - no more and no less than anyone else - a claim to humane and equitable consideration of her case.