Roy Whiting will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in jail for murdering the schoolgirl Sarah Payne, the Home Office said yesterday.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has set a minimum jail term of 50 years for Whiting after talks with government lawyers. Whiting, 43, is in the maximum-security Wakefield Prison and because of the tariff, one of the longest in British legal history, is unlikely to be released.
The former mechanic was sentenced to life imprisonment in December last year by Lewes Crown Court for murdering Sarah, who was eight when he abducted her near her grandparents' home in West Sussex in 2000.
Sarah's parents, who were told of Mr Blunkett's decision on Friday, said they were relieved. They also said they were determined to continue a campaign for "Sarah's Law" which would allow more information on sex offenders' movements to be published.
Sarah's mother, Sara, said: "David Blunkett has done a right and just thing. He's done what should be done to all people that kill children. Whiting has never said sorry, never admitted his guilt and he'll never be rehabilitated." She added in an interview with the News of the World: "I believe that when someone like Roy Whiting is in your community you should be told or have access to that information."
In imposing the tariff – a minimum period of detention – Mr Blunkett is exercising his power as Home Secretary to extend sentences indefinitely after they have been set by the court. But these powers are to be challenged in the House of Lords today when an appeal being made by a double murderer, Anthony Anderson, will be voted on. He is arguing that the Home Secretary should fall into line with European human rights judgements and accept the tariff should be set by the judiciary, as already happens in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If the ruling goes against Mr Blunkett, 225 inmates who have had their tariffs increased by a politician would be able to have them reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Home Office is considering moves to curtail sex tourism by confiscating the passports of more than 18,000 paedophiles and other sex offenders. Travel documents would be seized from the most serious offenders to prevent them from abusing children in Third World countries.
The Government has already implemented a similar measure against known football hooligans, who have had their passports seized on a number of occasions.