`Life means life' judges tell Hindley

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THE CHANCES of the Moors murderer Myra Hindley being released from prison were greatly reduced yesterday when the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected her attempt to overturn a decision by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, that her life sentence "means life".

Mr Straw's lawyers had argued that "pitiless and wicked" killers such as Hindley, who has already served 32 years in prison, "should be punished for the rest of their days" and never released.

Dismissing Hindley's appeal against her "whole life" tariff, Lord Woolf, sitting with Lord Justice Hutchison and Lord Justice Judge, said: "It seems to me with offences as horrendous as these it is perfectly reasonable for a Secretary of State to adopt the position that this is a case which is so bad that it would not be appropriate to fix a tariff."

Despite the unanimous decision by the three judges, leave was granted to make a further appeal to the House of Lords. Her solicitors, Taylor Nichol, said: "The decision ... was finely balanced as can be read in the judgments of Lord Woolf and Lord Justice Hutchison, both of whom expressed grave concerns about the whole life tariff." Lord Longford, a veteran campaigner for Hindley's release, said: "It's certainly not right that any human being should be kept in prison after 30 years when nobody suggests for a moment that she is dangerous." Paul Cavadino, principal officer of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said: "It cannot be right for such grave decisions to be made by a politician rather than by a judicial process. There will always be a risk that politicians could make decisions with an eye to electoral popularity and media headlines rather than on the merits of the case."

But Anne West, the mother of Lesley Ann Downey, one of Hindley's victims, said the ruling was "absolutely wonderful". Mrs West, who has liver cancer, said: "I've been worried for the last three weeks and it's such a relief. I'll still carry on fighting while I'm here, but today makes me feel like I've done my job."

Hindley, 57, who is now serving her sentence at Highpoint prison in Suffolk, was convicted at Chester in May 1966 of the murders of Lesley Ann, 10, and Edward Evans, 17. Ian Brady, now 60, was also convicted and was additionally jailed for life for murdering John Kilbride, 12.

In 1987 the pair confessed to killing Pauline Reade, 16, and Keith Bennett, 12.

Hindley's lawyers said they were "disappointed" that the judges had felt that her further confessions were sufficient reason for the Home Secretary to increase her provisional 30 year tariff to whole life.

They said: "If the result of Ms Hindley's co-operation with the authorities is to increase her sentence so dramatically then it will deter other prisoners serving life for murder to come forward and admit their guilt to other murders."

Lord Woolf said he was uncomfortable with a whole life tariff because it was necessarily of indeterminate length but the use of the expression "whole life tariff" did not make Mr Straw's decision unlawful.