Child murderer's sentence 'excessive'

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The Independent Online

The first person in the world to be convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence was given the go-ahead to challenge his sentence today.

Colin Pitchfork, now 48, who was jailed for life 20 years ago for the "heinous" murders of two schoolgirls in Leicestershire, is currently serving a minimum term of 30 years.

But Pitchfork claims the 30 years is "manifestly" excessive and wants it reduced to 20 years - meaning he would be eligible to apply for release on parole.

Judges in the Court of Appeal in London granted him permission to appeal against his minimum term, but warned that they did not think the sentence would be cut when his case is fully considered at a later date.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting with two other judges, said: "We do not hold out great hope to the appellant that in the end the period of 30 years, which is a substantial reduction from a whole life tariff, will be reduced by this court..."

However, permission was being granted as his case raised "arguable" issues.

The offences committed by Pitchfork, he said, were of the "most serious and terrible kind".

Pitchfork, a baker, was jailed at Leicester Crown Court in 1988 after pleading guilty to two offences of murder, two of rape, two offences of indecent assault and one offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

His first victim was 15-year-old Lynda Mann, of Narborough, who was murdered in 1983. Dawn Ashworth, also 15, from Enderby, was killed in 1986. Both girls were raped and strangled.

Pitchfork is challenging the setting of his tariff at 30 years in August following a review by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Grigson ruled that it would be "wholly inappropriate to reduce what I regard as a modest sentence for truly horrific crimes".

He pointed out that he did not have the power to increase the term of 30 years notified to Pitchfork by the Home Secretary in 1994 - and said if he could he would have imposed a whole life order.

After the world's first mass screening for DNA - where 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples - Pitchfork was eventually caught.

After he was jailed, the then Lord Chief Justice said that "from the point of view of the safety of the public I doubt if he should ever be released".