Hindley's life sentence `was justified'

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The Independent Online
Myra Hindley should spend the rest of her life in jail because of the circumstances of her crimes, the Government said. It opposed moves by the Moors murderer to overturn her life tariff. Michael Streeter, Legal Affairs Correspondent, looks at the second day of her hearing.

Even if Myra Hindley was corrupted and intimidated by her co-defendant Ian Brady, the "horrific" facts of the murders justified the decision to let her die in jail, the High Court was told yesterday.

David Pannick QC, for the Home Secretary, said the decision to increase her tariff from 30 years to a "whole life" - made by Michael Howard and confirmed last month by his successor Jack Straw - was correct following her confession in 1987.

This revealed that the two "pitiless" killings of which she was convicted in 1966 were "the culmination of a series of five murders in which she had been involved over a period of two-and-a-quarter years," he said.

Hindley, now 55 and in Durham jail, has served 31 years for the murders of Lesley-Ann Downey, 10, and 17-year-old Edward Evans.

Lesley-Ann Downey's mother, Ann West, 68, who has liver cancer and just weeks to live, was in the High Court in London to hear the Home Secretary's response to Hindley's application for judicial review.

Mr Straw is opposing moves by the prisoner to challenge decisions by a succession of Home Secretaries that a life sentence "will mean life".

Mr Pannick told the court that Parliament had "deliberately conferred a broad discretion on the Home Secretary to decide the appropriate policies for the possible release of mandatory life prisoners in individual cases".

Brady and Hindley had both confessed 10 years ago that they had also killed Keith Bennett, 12, and Pauline Reade, 16, and buried their bodies on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester.

Mr Pannick said there was no appeal to the court against the "merits" of the Home Secretary's decision. "The Home Secretary was entitled to conclude, and has explained his reasons for concluding, that the horrific circumstances of the murders of which the applicant was convicted justified the whole life tariff, even assuming that the applicant was corrupted and intimidated by Ian Brady," Mr Pannick said.

On Monday, Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Hindley, said she had been unlawfully condemned to die in prison after being "singled out" because of the notoriety of her case.

Mr Fitzgerald said that she had been "dominated, intimidated and threatened" into participating in the crimes by Brady - a "homicidal maniac".

On the same day Brady published a letter from prison saying that the claim that he had threatened Hindley's life was the "lowest lie".

The case continues.