Over 29 years ago, a man by the name of Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women and attempted to kill seven more. Such was his infamy he was dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’. His crimes were such as to provoke revulsion the world over. Now, with a new name, Peter Coonan seeks to once again roam our streets.

Once finally apprehended in 1981, Sutcliffe admitted the killings and the attacks so was sentenced to a life sentenced with a recommendation of a minimum of 30 years. That 30 year time scale expires in January 2011 so, hypothetically, although very unlikely, he could be released next year.

A high court Judge must decide over the next few months whether to invoke a ‘rest of life’ tariff or to set down a minimum term tariff which could be anything, although I don’t think Sutcliffe will be popping to his local for a beer any time soon.

This man is one of Britain’s most prolific and notorious of serial killers. Can we really comprehend that he be allowed to once again rub shoulders with the general public against whom he offended so viciously and callously?

Should he be allowed to walk along the same streets as the families which he tore apart nearly 30 years ago? Perhaps all those years ago we lived in a country that put the welfare of the masses before that of killers. Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps all those years ago we lived in a place where the temptations for the predatory sexual killer were few and far between. Now? 30 years later? Hmmm, I shudder to think!

Is it likely that Sutcliffe will be released? If one were to look at the (fortunately) few similar cases in the U.K one would probably say No.

Ian Bradey has been told he will never be released, so has Rose West and Denis Nielsen. I won’t go into the details of their crimes, but suffice to say that their offending was similar to that of Sutcliffe, but only Nielsen can boast the same body count. In a modern and just society surely Sutcliffe can expect similar treatment?

Well, here is where the plot thickens. A consultant psychiatrist at Broadmoor secure hospital where Sutcliffe has been incarcerated since his convictions, has written that Sutcliffe was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of his crimes and as such should only have been convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

If the good doctor’s finding is accepted by the court Sutcliffe will walk free sooner rather than later.

Only in this country would this be an issue, only in the U.K would we even consider, thinking, about releasing a man who has killed 13 women and attempted the 7 others. Some of those 7 victims, who fortunately escaped Sutcliffe’s attentions with their lives, still live on having made the best of an attempt to get over what happened to them. Have we forgotten about these victims? Have we forgotten about the families of those who did not survive?

My understanding of the criminal defence of ‘Diminished Responsibility’, is a temporary abnormality of the mind which led to the sufferer engaging in a course of conduct which he would normally have known to have been wrong. Perhaps Sutcliffe could argue this on one, two or even three occasions, but twenty? Come on!

It would appear that the old skills of deception and coercion Sutcliffe utilised to such appalling effect during his reign of terror is now being used to pull the wool over the eyes of established and eminent Psychiatrists.

When all is said and done, what Government in its right mind is going to want the release of one of the country’s most notorious killers to happen on its watch? Surely not in an election year?

But wait a minute….. remember Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi !!!

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