Home Affairs Correspondent
One of Britain's most authoritative legal figures yesterday questioned the legality of keeping Myra Hindley in prison until she dies.
Lord Donaldson, the former Master of the Rolls, said that to allow public opinion to influence prisoners' "tariffs" (the amount of time they serve) came "perilously close to lynch law". He questioned whether the Home Secretary had the right to tie the hands of a successor by deciding a life- sentence prisoner ought never to be released.
He said: "I can well understand him saying that a particular prisoner should not be released now, but I don't see how he can say that he or she should never be released."
Although Lord Donaldson denied he was supporting Hindley, the Moors murderer, his comments will inevitably be seized on by her supporters. Herinitial recommended minimum sentence was set by the trial judge at 20 years, which she has now served.
Lord Donaldson said: "My concern is that the Home Secretary should act within his powers. In other words, I am concerned with the rule of law, whether it affects prisoners or anybody else." He also queried the rights of Home Secretaries to move tariffs ever upwards.