Colin Pitchfork to be released after judge rejects government challenge

Double child killer Colin Pitchfork is to be released from prison after a senior judge upheld the Parole Board’s assessment that he is suitable for release and can be “safely managed” in the community, despite government objections.

Jul 13, 2021
By Tony Thompson
Colin Pitchfork pictured at the time of his conviction.

He was jailed for life in 1988 for raping and murdering two 15-year-olds, Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth. He was originally sentenced to a minimum of 30 years but this was cut by two years in 2009.

Following a hearing in March, the Parole Board said that after considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, it was satisfied that the 61-year-old was suitable for release.

However, last month Justice Secretary Robert Buckland wrote to the Parole Board arguing that the decision to release the prisoner was irrational.

A review of the decision was carried out by senior Parole Board judge His Honour Michael Topolski QC who said this morning (July 13): “This was and remains a case of considerable seriousness, complexity and notoriety.

“The terrible consequences of the brutal rapes and murders of two innocent girls will forever darken the lives of the families concerned.

“A highly experienced and expert panel comprising of two judicial and one psychologist member had in essence two questions to decide.

“First, did the respondent need to remain in prison to complete any further offending work and secondly, could his risk be safely managed in the community?

“For the reasons I have given, I do not consider that the decision was irrational and accordingly, with my thanks to the parties for their submissions, the application for reconsideration is refused.”

A Parole Board spokesperson said: “The Parole Board has immense sympathy for the families of Dawn Ashworth and Lynda Mann and recognises the pain and anguish they have endured and continue to endure through the parole process.

“In the reconsideration the decision, the judge remarks that ‘the terrible consequences of the brutal rapes and murders of two innocent girls will forever darken the lives of the families concerned’.

“However, Parole Board panels are bound by law to assess whether a prisoner is safe to release.

“It has no power to alter the original sentence set down by the courts.

“Legislation dictates that a panel’s decision must be solely focused on what risk a prisoner may pose on release and whether that risk can be managed in the community.

“As made clear in the reconsideration decision, release was supported by all of the Secretary of State’s witnesses during Mr Pitchfork’s review.”

They added: “The reconsideration mechanism was introduced under the Parole Board Rules 2019 to allow the Secretary of State and prisoners to challenge a Parole Board decision.

“We welcome this crucial safeguard in the system which allows an avenue for people to scrutinise our decisions.”

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