Should the Yorkshire Ripper be released?

Peter Sutcliffe is seeking a release date from prison on the grounds that he was wrongly convicted of the murder of 13 women because he was suffering from image paranoid schizophrenia at the time of his crimes.

The High Court was told yesterday by Kevin Murray, a consultant psychiatrist at Broadmoor secure hospital, that Sutcliffe had been wrongly convicted of murder.

Sutcliffe, 63, will learn within months the minimum time that he must spend in custody before he can be considered for parole. A judge at his trial in 1981 recommended 30 years, which would have made him eligible to apply for release in January next year, but no formal tariff was set.

It might form the basis of an appeal against the convictions for murder on the ground that Sutcliffe was suffering “diminished responsibility” at the time of the crimes, so should have been found guilty of manslaughter.

Anyone who murders is obviously insane, if even for that split second in which they become a killer – because no “normal” person would commit such an act. There is no contrition from Sutcliffe, no remorse or recognition for the atrocity of his evil deeds. I have seen very accomplished liars in court, and I bet Sutcliffe is just as cunning, and that he can convince himself about what the “truth” is, and hoodwink others, including experienced medics, into thinking the same too.


  1. We have this same situation playing out from time to time here in the US with the Charles Manson killers–one of whom died recently of cancer. The original prosecutor from 1969 argued for her release on “compassionate grounds”. I ask: Where was the compassion on the night of August 9, 1969 when Sharon Tate and her friends were ruthlessly murdered? Wisely, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied any chance of parole. I agree with you, Ellee.

  2. Pip, of course he’s a murderer.

    Frugal Dougal, yes, I agree about Sutcliffe still being a murderer despite his mental illness, but I can’t see Sutcliffe being allowed out with a new identity at our expense. Let’s hope and pray that will never happen.

  3. Short answer – no.

  4. A murderer who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia is still a murderer. My concern is that if he were freed he’d be given a new identity at our expense so that he could escape the natural consequences of his crimes.

  5. I don’t think he shuld be released but then the chance of him actually being released are probably pretty close to zero anyway

  6. Philipa

    Ellee – murder is surely the taking of someones life with malice aforethought. The Yorkshire ripper is a murderer.

    If you read some of the papers published by professors in psychiatry and psychology it would make you gag with astonishment or laugh. Some of these people simply peddle their own prejudices or naivete and because of their degree call them a diagnosis. Yet others, in my opinion are deserving of more respect, they return judgements based on facts and logic. The psychiatrist who assesed the man who kept his daughter locked in a cellar for years is one case in point. She gave an interview on Womans Hour and in it said that many people have this propensity to believe that if other people don’t behave the same way they do they must be insane. They are not. Human beings are capable of great cruelty and just because they know certain behaviours are wrong it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy doing them.

    Are all peadophiles insane? Are men who hit women insane? Their wives and girlfriends whom they vowed to love, are they insane? After all, we’re just talking degree here. The men who killed their children, are they insane? The mother of Baby P? etc. etc. They are not insane, Ellee. Those people knew precisely what they were doing when they starved that child recently.

    I’ve been punched in the head by a man. I’ve been held up the wall by the throat and I’ve been raped. In each case the man wasn’t insane. It wasn’t insanity that made such a man enjoy the power he had over me. That was just plain bullying arrogance and sadistic pleasure. I’m guessing the Yorkshire ripper liked killing women. Do we really want to let him out? I think both of us agree the answer is no.

  7. In his case I am not sure he should be released, wher is the proof he won’t do it again and claim diminished responsibility?

  8. Ian Lidster

    In a word ‘no’. We were actually staying in Leeds for a few days when he committed his ultimate murder. It was chilling to know he had been so nearby.

  9. Pip, I don’t know enough about the legalities over murder committed at times of war, when killing is permissible or deemed illegal.

    I’ve covered murder trials and seen how “normal”people cross the line and lose control, they must become become temporarily insane. What is the definition of insanity?

    The definition of manslaughter is when you kill, but without intent.

    Gledwood, how can we ever be sure that Sutcliffe is “cured” if he doesn’t accept any responsibility for his actions – schizo or not.

  10. He wasn’t diagnosed schizophrenic till AFTER his imprisonment… refused any meds ~ until a court order forced them on him in the early 90s… now they’re claiming that 1. he shouldn’t have been done for murder anyway, it should have been manslaughter with diminished responsibility and 2. he’s cured anyhow …

    O, I don’t know!

  11. Philipa

    I agree that he shouldn’t be released. In fact his argument of diminished responsibility should count against him – how do we know he is now responsible? He was guilty and should stay where he is.

    However, I disagree with your argument that “Anyone who murders is obviously insane“. They are not. And in fact that would make many members of the armed forces insane by your judgement.

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