A moment to wonder why politicians can overrule judges

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The Independent Online

A panel of law lords will rule next month on whether politicians may legally overrule sentences set by judges; opposition to changing current practice centred largely on Hindley; the reform can now be considered on its legal merits, without distracting images of Hindley walking out of prison a free woman.

The inquest to be held today at Highpoint Prison in Suffolk should be the final official statement on Myra Hindley. The Moors murderer died, as she lived her last 36 years, a prisoner. She was reformed, perhaps, but largely unforgiven by a country that is still repelled and distressed by her crimes.

That her body will be under police guard until the cremation she stipulated is testimony to the continuing strength of public feeling. Her funeral will be held in private, probably in the middle of the night, to prevent angry demonstrations – or worse.

In stating in her will not only that her body should be incinerated, but that none of her organs should be donated and that her ashes should be scattered at an undisclosed place, Hindley appears to have recognised her infamy, even if she did not accept it.

Coldly, methodically, she saw to it that no bodily trace of her 60 years on Earth would remain. That, in a way, is a mercy and to her credit.

Hindley took to the grave at least two secrets: where one of her known victims, Keith Bennett, is buried, and whether she killed more than the five children of whose murder she was convicted. With her, also, goes the controversy about whether she was, or ever could have been, genuinely rehabilitated.

Her passing, though, is also an end that allows for a beginning. A panel of law lords will rule next month on whether politicians may legally overrule sentences set by judges. Opposition to changing current practice centred largely on Hindley. The test case was not brought on her behalf, but she could have been one of its earliest, and most virulently contested, beneficiaries. The reform can now be considered on its legal merits, without distracting images of Hindley walking out of prison a free woman.

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