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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg report
"Her lawyers will argue the Home Secretary has no power to say 'life means life'"
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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 17:43 GMT
Hindley parole ban 'inhumane'

Hindley has spent 33 years behind bars

Denying parole to Moors murderer Myra Hindley has been condemned in the House of Lords as "degrading and inhumane".

The comments were made as Hindley, 57, launched her latest bid for freedom in a test case which could have implications for the UK's most notorious killers.

There is no dispute that her crimes were of the utmost gravity and deserving of punishment. But there is uncontradictable evidence that she has reformed and presents no danger to society
Edward Fitzgerald QC
Hindley's lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC told the Law Lords that she was the victim of a "basic injustice" because she had been condemned to stay in prison with no hope of parole.

He said it was unlawful, irrational and "disproportionate" to rule out release for the woman jailed for taking part with Ian Brady in horrific child killings.

And he said Hindley's case was a challenge to the whole concept of imposing "whole life" tariffs on prisoners, other than in the most exceptional circumstances.

Jailed in May 1966 for the murdering Lesley Ann Downey, 10 and Edward Evans, 17, Hindley has been told by successive home secretaries that her life sentence "must mean life".

In the last legal avenue open to her under British law she is challenging the Court of Appeal's ruling in November 1998 which upheld the ministers' decisions.

The hearing is expected to take four days, but it could be weeks before a decision is known.

Hindley 'no danger'

Mr Fitzgerald told the Law Lords it was unjust to impose a whole-life tariff on Hindley in 1990 when such a concept did not exist at the time of sentencing.

He said: "It is our submission that Parliament did not intend such a policy to be adopted whereby lifelong tariffs were pre-determined on the grounds of gravity of the crime alone."

Earlier Mr Fitzgerald told the five Law Lords that Hindley was a reformed person who presented no danger to society.

Mr Fitzgerald told the Law Lords: "There is no dispute that her crimes were of the utmost gravity and deserving of punishment.

"But there is uncontradictable evidence that she has reformed and presents no danger to society."

'Exceptional circumstances'

Home Secretary Jack Straw has said that Hindley may be considered for parole in "exceptional circumstances".

If her House of Lords appeal fails, the child killer's remaining hope is that Mr Straw or one of his successors, who are legally bound to keep the case under review, decide that such circumstances have arisen entitling her to parole.

Moors murderer Ian Brady Ian Brady: Hindley's former lover
Her lawyers still have the option of taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case has taken on an added urgency following reports that Hindley's health is failing.

In January she was admitted to hospital for treatment on a potentially fatal brain conditions.

Hindley and her former lover, Ian Brady, were given life sentences in May 1966 for the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans after being arrested at their home on the outskirts of Manchester.

In 1987 the pair confessed to the killings of Pauline Reade, 16, and Keith Bennett, 12.

Pauline's body was unearthed and given a proper burial after Brady and Hindley were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester, to identify the spot where they buried her.

But Keith Bennett's body has never been recovered.

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See also:
29 Dec 99 |  UK
Myra Hindley: A hate figure
06 Jan 00 |  UK
Is prison a sentence to ill-health?
16 Jan 00 |  UK
Brady: Sick Hindley is lucky
16 Jan 00 |  UK
Anger over killer's treatment
15 Jan 00 |  UK
Hindley 'making progress' after treatment
10 Jan 00 |  UK
Hindley urges doctors to 'let me die'
27 Dec 99 |  UK
Brady collapses after hunger strike
14 Jan 00 |  Medical notes
Cerebral aneurism factfile

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