The killers who will never go free

Letter that broke news to Hindley
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The Independent Online
15 December 1994

Miss M Hindley HM Prison Cookham Wood Dear Miss Hindley, In accordance with the House of Lords' judgment of 24 June 1993 in Doody and others, I am writing to inform you of the substance of the judicial recommendations which were made in your case as to the period to be served by you in order to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence (the tariff), together with the decision of the Secretary of State of the day in July 1990 as to the appropriate period in question. I should emphasise that this is disclosure of the judicial recommendations , and of the decision taken by previous Ministers.

Although your solicitor made representations on your behalf on 5 December, and invited the Secretary of State to reduce the tariff before the material contained in this letter had been disclosed, it is considered inappropriate for the Secretary of State to reconsider the matter until you have had the opportunity to make full representations in response to the disclosures made in this letter. The Secretary of State will then consider your tariff afresh.

Following your conviction, the trial judge wrote to the Secretary of State on 8 May 1966. He explained that he had not made a recommendation in passing sentence, because the only possible one at that stage would have been that you should never be set free again. He hoped that, apart from some dramatic conversion, you would be kept in prison for a very long time. He did not suggest any term of years. A full copy of his letter is enclosed.

The then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, was consulted in 1978. He replied in March 1978: "... I do not think that we can usefully discuss what the ultimate term of imprisonment might be." A full copy of his letter is enclosed.

In January 1982, the Lord Chief Justice (then Lord Jane) was consulted about the appropriate period of detention. He said that he did "not think that any term less than 25 years would be appropriate in the circumstances". A full copy of his letter of 12 January 1982 is enclosed.

In January 1985, the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Lane) was consulted again (the trial judge having died). The Lord Chief Justice referred back to his letter of 12 January 1982 and added: "I should emphasise that the suggested period of 25 years in Hindley'scase was indeed a minimum." A copy of the standard consultation proforma and Lord Lane's letter of 10 January 1985 is enclosed, together with copies of the papers attached to it.

At that stage, Ministers decided to set a 30-year tariff in your case which, however, they described as "provisional".

In July 1990, Ministers again reviewed the question of what your tariff should be. They were then aware of your confession to the police in February 1987, but took it into account only in so far as it shed light on the circumstances of the offences for which you were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. The Secretary of State of the day (Lord Waddington) concluded on 26 July 1990 that a whole life tariff should be imposed in your case. He did so taking into account the circumstances of the offences in question having regard to the other comparable cases.

As he indicated in the statement of 27 July 1993, the Secretary of State is willing to consider any written representations by prisoners as to the period to be served by them to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence.

If, therefore, you, or those acting on your behalf, wish to make further written representations in connection with the matters set out in this letter, the Secretary of State will give them careful consideration, together with the representations submitted by your solicitor on 5 December 1994.

On 7 December 1994, the Secretary of State announced that new review arrangements would apply to life sentence prisoners (a copy of the announcement is attached).

Under these new arrangements, life sentence prisoners with whole life tariffs will no longer have their cases reviewed by the Parole Board, except where such a review has already been fixed (in your case the Parole Board review scheduled for August 1995 will go ahead). In future, life sentences prisoners with whole life tariffs will have their cases reviewed only by Ministers, who will consider whether or not the whole life tariff remains appropriate.

These reviews will take place at the 10-year and 25-year points in the sentence, and, where appropriate, every 5 years thereafter, as described in the announcement.

Yours sincerely, I A Newton Head of Tariff Unit