Police condemn parole move for officer's killer

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The Independent Online
POLICE demanded yesterday that life sentences for murdering an officer must mean life, after it was disclosed that a constable's killer is to be paroled after serving 20 years.

Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, has approved the recommendation of the parole board and the trial judge that Anthony Jeffs, 42, who shot PC Peter Guthrie in July 1972, be released on licence later this year.

Police learned about his impending release after PC Guthrie's widow Anna Marie, now remarried and a chief inspector in Warwickshire police, was contacted by the probation service.

Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation - which represents rank-and-file officers - said that they would react bitterly to the news. An editorial in yesterday's Police magazine said: 'It is a decision dictated by consideration for a cold-blooded murderer. The interests of police officers and others appear to have been ignored.'

Jeffs, who had ACAB - for 'All Coppers Are Bastards' - tattooed on his knuckles, broke into a Coventry gun shop and lay in wait for officers to answer the alarm call. PC Guthrie, a probationary PC, died in a hail of bullets fired at point-blank range at his chest. His colleague Sgt Gordon Meredith, now 60 and retired, was shot while grappling with Jeffs.

Jeffs was jailed for life for murder and attempted murder with a recommendation he be held for a minimum of 20 years. His release is conditional on him completing a pre-release course at a probation hostel.

If he is freed, he will be supervised by the probation service for the rest of his life and will be liable to recall at any time.

The Home Office pointed out that, in 1983, the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, made it clear that police murderers would normally expect to serve 20 years.

The federation said: 'Successive Home Secretaries have heard pleas from the Police Federation that mandatory life sentences passed on the wilful killers of police officers should mean what they say.

'Last year, when we protested against the premature release of one of the men who murdered three officers in London in 1966, we were given a clear indication that the decision in that case had been taken some years earlier and that we need have no apprehension in other cases.'

Mr Eastwood said: 'When a person is convicted of wilful murder of a police officer on duty, then the mandatory life sentence should mean life.'