Peter Sutcliffe wins right to ruling on release

High Court to decide on minimum sentence tariff for serial killer

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, has won permission for a High Court hearing which will determine whether he could one day be released.

The serial killer launched his attempt to obtain a hearing on how long he should be imprisoned in 2008, but reporting restrictions which kept the proceedings anonymous were finally lifted yesterday after a judge ruled that the ban risked infringing the "overriding principle that justice should be seen to be done".

Sutcliffe, 63, who now prefers to be known as Peter Coonan, was given 20 life sentences in 1981 for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester over a five-year period, which made him one of the most prolific killers in British history.

A 30-year tariff, which is due to expire next year, was recommended by the judge at Sutcliffe's trial but never formally adopted by the Government at the time. Since then, tariff-setting powers have been transferred back to the courts to counter concerns of political intervention in sentencing powers.

Sutcliffe, who has spent all but three years of his sentence inside Broadmoor high-security hospital, does not feature on a Home Office list of 35 prisoners serving "whole life" sentences, and applied to the High Court to determine whether he should be added to that list or given a finite prison term.

Mr Justice Mitting ruled yesterday that Sutcliffe was entitled to a hearing to set his tariff, likely to take place later this year. A decision to give the serial killer a limited term "for retribution and deterrence" would eventually allow him to seek a parole hearing to decide whether he was fit for release.

The High Court in London heard that Sutcliffe, who claimed he was on a "mission from God" to kill prostitutes, had enjoyed "very considerable success" during his treatment after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The Ripper, in fact, targeted at least 10 women who were not sex workers, including his youngest victim, 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald.

Dr Kevin Murray, the psychiatrist who has been in charge of Sutcliffe's care since 2001, said in a 2006 report that the former lorry driver now posed a "low risk of reoffending".

The report also questioned whether Sutcliffe, who mutilated his victims using a hammer, a sharpened screw driver and a knife, should have been convicted of murder for the killings, suggesting in "blunt and firm" terms that he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time and should have had a plea of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility accepted by the trial judge, Mr Justice Boreham.

Mr Justice Mitting ruled that Dr Murray's report could not form part of the evidence to be heard at the tariff hearing, but in a surprise move suggested it could be grounds for a referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the body that investigates suspected miscarriages of justice.

The tariff hearing could still decide to impose a whole life sentence on Sutcliffe. The sanction is normally imposed if an offender has murdered two or more people with a substantial degree of premeditation and if the victims were abducted or there was a sadistic or sexual element to the killings.

After reports last year that Sutcliffe might be transferred to a lower security hospital, Gordon Brown said it was "very unlikely" he would ever be released.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week