Tess Finch-Lees: Sutcliffe is a danger, mostly to himself

Talk of releasing the Ripper is misguided

Share
Related Topics

More than 10 years ago I was employed as a group therapist at Broadmoor hospital. My brief was to work on the "high profile" ward with patients whose crimes were so notorious that they had to be isolated. I could choose the group members, but there was a definite steer to include Peter Sutcliffe. Apart from medication, he had declined most other therapeutic interventions. To say I didn't go out of my way to persuade Sutcliffe to join my group would be an understatement. I was repulsed by his crimes and didn't think I could work with him. Despite all my efforts, he signed up and I was able to work with him.

Although Broadmoor is a secure psychiatric hospital, it feels like a prison. The staff are predominately nurses, but some behave like prison officers. As soon as you strap a chain of enormous Dickensian keys around your waist it's hard to resist the swagger of power. A male nurse had to accompany me on my sessions. On one occasion, a dinosaur decided to give me a lesson in male supremacy. He went to the toilet, locking me in a room alone (a no-no) with seven of the most dangerous patients in Broadmoor, among them Peter Sutcliffe. Despite being terrified, I couldn't protest. It would have sabotaged progress that took months to achieve. Instead, I found myself adopting the demented tones of a Blue Peter presenter on speed, and hoping no one would notice. It was the longest three minutes of my life.

The staff member who deliberately put me in a life-threatening situation showed more misogyny in those few minutes than Sutcliffe did in all the time I worked with him. In fact, I never felt threatened by Sutcliffe. It was his infamy that intimidated me. While I completely concur that Sutcliffe seemed to be low risk, certainly when I worked with him, I vehemently disagree that he should be released.

This isn't about his perceived level of risk. His diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia is not in dispute (among the experts). While it can be managed with medication, there is no cure. Sutcliffe's level of risk to women is dependent on his regularly taking his medication. The more freedom he is afforded, I believe, the less this can be monitored and controlled.

After almost 30 years of incarceration, Sutcliffe is as debilitated by institutionalisation as he is by his illness. In my opinion, not only would he struggle to cope without the constant care and structure of Broadmoor, but he would be unable to protect himself against the inevitable reprisals that would await him.

Obviously, Peter Sutcliffe has the right to appeal against the decision not to release him, but I fear he's being badly advised. The troop of lawyers and medical professionals involved in Sutcliffe's case must know that there is little likelihood of his ever being released, whatever the deemed risk. They must know, too, that release would result in an increased risk to his safety. I can't help but feel that pursuing Sutcliffe's case on the grounds of "human rights" is disingenuous at best. At worst, it could be construed as exploitation, both of Sutcliffe himself and of the victims' families.

It is not in anyone's interests to rake up the trauma of the past, least of all if there's a hint of publicity mongering. On the contrary, I believe it's cruel and irresponsible. It gives Sutcliffe false hope and it is an affront to his victims and their families.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map