Ruling on Ripper release due tomorrow

THE outcome of an appeal by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe over a ruling that he should never be released is to be announced tomorrow.

The Court of Appeal is announcing its decision in the morning in a challenge by Sutcliffe against an order made by a High Court judge last year that he must serve a "whole life" tariff.

Now known as Peter Coonan, the former lorry driver, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1981.

Sutcliffe, now 64, received 20 life terms for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of others in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

He is being held in Broadmoor top security psychiatric hospital after being transferred from prison in 1984 suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

During a hearing last year his QC argued that Sutcliffe's mental disorder justified a minimum jail term of a "finite" number of years.

Edward Fitzgerald told the court: "We accept that the applicant was convicted of the brutal murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others and, on the face of it, we accept that the number and the nature of the murders is such that would call for a whole life tariff.

"The sole submission in this case is that the disorder suffered, and still suffered by the applicant, is a sufficient mitigating circumstance to justify a long, finite term of years instead of a whole life tariff."

Mr Fitzgerald emphasised: "Can I just stress that, of course, the tariff only means the minimum term he must serve before he can apply for parole and it does not have any implications as to release.

"It just means that he would have the opportunity to put his case to the Parole Board."

It was on July 5 1975, just 11 months after his marriage, that Sutcliffe took a hammer and carried out his first attack on a woman.

Sutcliffe is said to have believed he was on a "mission from God" to kill prostitutes - although not all of his victims were sex workers - and was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated their bodies using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.

The judge who set the whole life tariff, Mr Justice Mitting, said the primary submission made on behalf of Sutcliffe was that the degree of his responsibility "was lowered by mental disorder or mental disability".

The diagnosis of psychiatrists who considered his mental condition was that he was "suffering from encapsulated paranoid schizophrenia when he committed the crimes and that his responsibility for the 13 killings was, in consequence, substantially diminished".

But the judge said: "These propositions were, however, unquestionably rejected by the jury."

He ruled: "It is not, in my opinion, open to a judge, setting a minimum term, to go behind the verdict of the jury by concluding that, although the defendant's responsibility was not proved to have been substantially diminished, he should be given the benefit of the doubt for the purpose of setting the minimum term, by concluding that it might have been."

Tomorrow's decision will be given by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith and Mr Justice Griffith Williams.