Yorkshire Ripper: Mental health ruling signals prison move

Medical experts have ruled Peter Sutcliffe, widely known as the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, as mentally fit. Following the assessment, Sutcliffe is now expected to be transferred out of Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital and into mainstream prison.

Peter Sutcliffe, notorious for murdering 13 women in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester between 1975 and 1980, has been a patient at Broadmoor since 1984. He was admitted to the secure hospital three years after receiving 20 life sentences. Sutcliffe, who now calls himself Peter Coonan, was transferred out of Parkhurst Prison to Broadmoor following a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

There has been much debate in the media over the years as to whether Sutcliffe is simply “bad” rather than “mad”. Sutcliffe entered a not guilty plea at trial on the basis of Diminished Responsibility, claiming that he heard voices, in particular the voice of God, telling him to kill his victims. This defence was dismissed at trial. At least one expert, Dr Stephen Shaw, a retired criminal psychiatrist who met with Sutcliffe whilst he was on remand, felt that Sutcliffe was no more schizophrenic than he was.

News of Sutcliffe’s potential transfer became public back in December 2015, with reports suggesting that such a transfer could take place in around 6 months. At that time it was reported that Sutcliffe feared being placed at HMP Wakefield, located within his old stomping ground.

The decision made by the tribunal does not mean that Sutcliffe no longer suffers from schizophrenia, rather, his doctors believe that his illness is under control to the extent that he no longer requires treatment in hospital. Commenting on Sutcliffe’s case, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist Dr David K Ho explained that the condition is “loosely speaking… a little like diabetes, in the sense that when you treat it its symptoms get less, when you stop treating it, it may recur”.

It is now for the Ministry of Justice and the new Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, to decide whether Stucliffe should be transferred to the mainstream prison system. One thing is certain, he will never be released.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.

 

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