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

Talk of releasing the Ripper is misguided

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

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Now back to the big question: what's wrong with the eurozone?

Hamish McRae
Good old days? Social justice had real meaning for those who lived through the war  

Social justice is political pie in the sky

DJ Taylor
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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