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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 21:36 GMT
Should Ripper have been allowed out?
Peter Sutcliffe
Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe has been allowed out of Broadmoor high security hospital to see where his father's ashes were scattered.

Sutcliffe, whose father John died last year, visited the site at Arnside in Cumbria on Monday after the Home Secretary Charles Clarke ratified an earlier decision by his predecessor David Blunkett.

The Home Office has claimed that a full and comprehensive risk assessment was made by authorities and Sutcliffe was supervised at all times.

But the Labour MP for Leeds North East, in whose constituency some of the Ripper's victims' families live, has expressed concern about the visit.

Should Peter Sutcliffe have been allowed to visit the site of his father's ashes?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

What comfort can be derived from preventing him saying goodbye to his father?
Kev, Durham, UK
It is a credit to our civilised society that we can look beyond the surface of this story and allow this man to pay his last respects. Of course he took away the right of compassion when he took the lives of innocents but what comfort can be derived from preventing him saying goodbye to his father?
Kev, Durham, UK

Let's hope that his glimpse of the outside world serves as a harsh reminder to him of what he is missing as a result of his actions. I know this is no solace to the families of victims, - our thoughts should be with them.
Pat H, London, UK

Some people are acting like he was let out to prison to go on a luxury day trip, rather than a brief visit to see where his father's ashes were scattered. There is a mob mentality in the UK that seems to sometimes over-ride logic or fairness.
Kathryn, Salford

Just because he lost the ability to show or feel any compassion does not mean we should stoop that low. Of course he should have been allowed to visit the site where his father's ashes are scattered - losing your father is a terrible thing and who knows he may reflect on and regret his awful crimes as a result.
Richard, London

It's said that you can judge a society by how it treats its prisoners. Showing even a small amount of compassion to a person who has committed such terrible crimes, demonstrates what sort of society we live in.
Jason Fletcher, Shepherds Bush, London

Why should his rights be respected - did he respect the rights of the women he murdered??
Nina, Greece

Society has already shown its superior humanity to Sutcliffe by sentencing him to life imprisonment rather than death
Neil T, Sheffield, Yorkshire
Society has already shown its superior humanity to Sutcliffe by sentencing him to life imprisonment rather than death. We shouldn't have shown him any extra humanity. A visitor could have let him see photos of the site where his father's ashes were strewn. None of those poor women he slaughtered will ever visit their parents' graves. It is frankly offensive that his name should once again surface in the national news. From now on, we want him in his cell, doing his time till life leaves him.
Neil T, Sheffield, Yorkshire

I see that the BBC is struggling for news items to stir the public's righteous indignation again. Similar self-righteous attitudes from politicians who couldn't care less
Ethan Lee, Cardiff

I think the 'eye for an eye' attitude, displayed by some whenever the subject of criminals' rights is raised, is a greater threat to society than a lone murderer could ever be. Despicable though Sutcliffe's crimes were, we have no claim to moral superiority if we can't show a little consideration.
Kit, Birmingham UK

Here we go again - all thoughts of sympathy and compassion for the criminal, not the victims. At the very least, the families of the victims here should have been consulted and their opinion be the decider on this visit going ahead. As for the previous comment that we lower ourselves to his level if we refuse him compassion, what rubbish! - if offenders had to reap what they sow, we might have a more just society. (If he had been in the U.S. this visit would never have taken place because they would have done the right thing years ago and executed him).
Duncan Barnes, Surrey, UK

My deepest sympathies lie with the families of all the victims, their lives have changed forever and for this incident to have occurred would have opened up many deep wounds. However, this is what makes us and indeed them far superior, to rise above his crimes and for the sake of humanity allow him to pay respects to his late father.
Sarah, Washington, UK

He shouldn't have been let out, death in the family or not. What is this saying to the rest of society? Murder and maim and you get let out on day trips? We need to get our priorities right in this country, you kill, and cause suffering to others, you suffer the consequences. The families of those he killed must be sickened.
Ellie, Newbury, Berks

This is a compassionate society that we live in, not a vindictive one
Chris Ivory, Bristol, England
Of course he should be allowed out for this visit. This is a compassionate society that we live in, not a vindictive one. Those who complain have their own hidden agenda.
Chris Ivory, Bristol, England

This is PC, "do-gooders" and Nanny State gone mad! This guy committed horrendous crimes. What compassion or respect did he show any of his victims? None.
Shane Carlson, Dubai, UAE

Surely the difference between the vast majority of society and people like Sutcliffe is that we live by our standards and should apply them to everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done. If society starts to make decisions that some people are less than us and entitled to less rights than us then our world begins to look more like the kind of world that people like Sutcliffe inhabit.
Tim, Southampton

The punishment of prison is the punishment of isolation from society. That form of punishment was breached with his being allowed to visit the grave. The father died a year ago so I see no reason for this privilege.
Richard Stevens, Connecticut, USA

What possible justification can there be for showing "compassion" to a man who terrified and killed in such a brutal manner? It's bad enough that the taxpayer pays for the cost of his continued life. Now, in a time when the prison service is severely stretched, four guards who could be usefully employed had their time wasted by escorting Sutcliffe on a trip.
Mark Jeffries, Woburn Sands, Bucks

A society should be judged by how it treats it's lowest citizens, not how they treat the rest of society. By allowing Sutcliffe to pay respects to his late father, Charles Clarke and David Blunkett are simply showing that we should not and do not sink to Sutcliffe's level.
Alistair Weeks, Manchester

This man is a living monster who should be allowed no pity
Alan Clayton, Stockport, UK
As a retired police officer who worked on and saw the result of Sutcliffe's crimes I can only view this latest lapse in law and order with total disbelief and anger. This man is a living monster who should be allowed no pity whatsoever.
Alan Clayton, Stockport, UK

It is a little scary that there are so many vindictive people out there. Of course what he did was terrible, but he is in a secure hospital because he is ill, and was ill when he committed the crimes. Some compassion is required.
David, Bedford

This man is a murderer, it is only because we have weak politicians that he is still alive, he should have been hung and then there would be no debate about whether he should be allowed out for any reason.
Christine, London, England

Many people will argue with a certain amount of justification, that by committing these appalling crimes Sutcliffe has forfeited the right to leave the confines of his prison. However, it could just be that a man who has shown little remorse so far may, through the visit to his father's resting place, finally begin to understand for himself the terrible grief his victim's families have suffered over the years. If that happens then some good will have come out of this.
Colin, UK

Perhaps one of the more sad and disturbing aspects is that the information was made public and has been exploited again by our dreadful media, the BBC included. I have no difficulty accepting that it is a just decision. As to causing distress to the victims' families; it wouldn't had the visit been kept secret, as it should anyway.
Lawrence Kershaw, London, UK

People are acting like he's being released. He's being taken to the site where his fathers ashes are scattered after he wasn't allowed to the funeral, a privilege which is afforded to most criminals by the way, and then he's straight back to prison where he will remain until the day he dies.
Anon, UK

Justice is being done and Peter Sutcliffe is rightly being punished for what he did. However it is worth considering what Abraham Lincoln once said, "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." Our ability to show some compassion, even in the face of such horrendous deeds, is one of the things which make us so different to a Peter Sutcliffe.
Trevor, Huddersfield, UK

Let's remember he murdered thirteen women.
Pete, Leeds UK
All the comments from people who say it isn't a big deal do not know what it was like in Leeds during his reign of terror and bloodlust. Let's remember he murdered thirteen women. His father is dead and cannot tell if his son grieves or not. This was for the ripper, nobody else. An appalling decision.
Pete, Leeds UK

What everyone seems to have overlooked is that this man is ill. Mentally ill yes, but ill just the same. In essence this is just a small gesture of compassion to a seriously ill middle-aged man. The media frenzy is predictable and will probably cause more hurt to the families than anything else when the reporters turn up asking for their "reaction".
Alan, Blackpool, UK

Prison is supposed to be rehabilitation and not punishment. What gives anyone the right to stop a mentally ill inmate from paying respects to their father?
Fran, London

There is nothing that can ever be done to change what he did, but he's still a human being. If we forget that, we may as well just forget any concept of civilisation. He had a few hours of 'freedom' and even then on special permission of the Home Secretary. I think we should just accept that he was allowed that tiny concession, and move on.
Paul Berry, Sheffield

Like anyone else, I firmly believe in the system of human rights. But I find it odd that Sutcliffe has been granted this particular concession at this particular point in time. Through his evil crimes he demonstrated little respect for human life or, indeed, a dignified passing. He robbed the victims and their families of such blessings. His now deceased father surely did not benefit from this visit. If Sutcliffe needs to grieve, he has plenty of time alone in a jail cell to pay his respects through contemplative thought.
Laura, Glasgow

It's not like the prison service took him to the theatre or the pub.
Jenny, Hastings, UK
For goodness sake! He was taken, with four guards, to the site where his father's ashes were scattered, for a few hours. Big deal. It's not like the prison service took him to the theatre or the pub. Despite what he has done, he is entitled to grieve, as any other prisoner and as any other human being in a civilised society. He wasn't allowed to attend the funeral - how far do some people want to go? Why don't we just torture him as well - that will really satisfy some people's thirst for 'real' punishment.
Jenny, Hastings, UK

Whilst Sutcliffe is a sick and twisted man, the families of his victims should also remember that he is behind bars for life. He may have had a day outside the prison, but there are many more families who have had to see the killers of their loved ones being released after only a few years (despite being sentenced to 'life'), sadly often to re-offend. In the grand scheme of justice today, one day for Sutcliffe to grieve is a drop in the ocean compared to all the grief caused by insufficient sentencing.
Aimee Donison, Oxford, UK

Despite what he did, remember the Krays were let out to attend their mother's funeral so I think the correct decision was taken in this matter.
Gordon Herd, Milton of Balgonie, Scotland

I'm not shocked by his visit, more surprised that the Home Office and the penal service have let us know about it. Feelings can run high, and the dangers of vigilante action not only against him, but also against his father's grave are very real.
Jon Herman, London, UK

There is no doubt that Sutcliffe's crimes were some of the most barbaric of recent times. I can only presume that those who made the recommendation to allow him to visit the site had very good reasons for their decision. Had he been allowed out for his father's funeral it would have turned into a ghoulish media circus which would have caused a lot more grief to the families of his victims than this relatively private visit.
Ian, Leeds, UK

I was at Leeds University at the time of the murders and saw how the actions of this evil man affected the entire town. He should not be allowed any privileges.
Lucy, Brussels

This mentally disturbed killer was allowed to visit his fathers' final resting place, quietly and under guard. He is now locked up again where he will remain until he dies. The problem (again) is the media having a slow news day and making something out of nothing, coupled with (certain sections of) the general public's desire to be outraged.
Andrew Malden, Milton Keynes, England

He forfeited his right to a normal life when he took away the lives of others. What a massive waste of time, resources and consequently taxpayers' money.
Richard Doering, Surrey

The only opinions that do count are those of the families of the victims
Nick, Godalming, Surrey
As a human being I believe that it was OK, however in this case my opinion doesn't count. The only opinions that do count are those of the families of the victims.
Nick, Godalming, Surrey

It is disgusting, that a person who shows no remorse for his victims or their families be given any consideration. How distressing for the families to see this evil person being shown any compassion
Sandra, Woking

Allowing Sutcliffe to visit the site of his father's remain was the sign of a mature and civilised country. However, the visit should have been covered by reporting restriction to avoid possible upset to the victims' families.
Simon, London

Why not? Showing mercy to the merciless is part of being a civilised society.
Paul, London

MPs should think before jumping on the PR bandwagon. Isn't it time we let certain national fixations go?
Jonathan Green, Zürich, Switzerland

Outrageous! His victims can't go to pay their respects to their loved ones, so why should he? How much did this little trip cost the tax payer?
Stephen Crockett, Deal, UK

He should not have been allowed out of prison. He showed no consideration to his victims or families and no consideration should be shown to him.
Margaret Meaney, Edinburgh, Scotland

Although Peter Sutcliffe was inhumane, we are not. That means we don't torture prisoners and we do provide for their physical and mental welfare. For the sake of Sutcliffe's already sick mind, it was right to allow him to grieve for his father. Our concern should be for the amount of money wasted in coming to a sensible decision: personal reviews by two Home Secretaries and all the cost of all the reports that would have entailed.
Mark Fulford, Southampton, UK

It is important that all prisoners' human rights are respected despite what they have done
Katy, Manchester
It is important that all prisoners' human rights are respected despite what they have done. I think it was the right decision to allow him to grieve.
Katy, Manchester

The people who are bringing pain to the families over this visit are the media who are trying to whip up a public reaction. This visit caused no-one any harm. The media frenzy has.
Jon, Lincolnshire

When you commit crimes as heinous as his you give up the right to be treated as human being.
Marcus, London

Of Course Peter Sutcliffe has done unspeakable evil and understandably the families of those murdered are upset - who wouldn't be? It would be evil on our part not to let the man out for once just so that he may morn his father. He was kept under guard and the 'operation' went well. He is now back inside serving time for his crime.
Gavin Hutsby, Liverpool, Merseyside

I agree that this must be an upsetting situation for the families of the people he killed but he has been in prison for 23 years, which is longer than most murderers serve. By doing this time he has earned this one trip and as long as it was properly organised and the security monitored then I feel it was justified.
Vik, UK

Every person has the right to pay their last respects
Fergus, Forres, Scotland
He killed all those innocent people and got caught and sentenced but every person has the right to pay their last respects, especially family
Fergus, Forres, Scotland

It is positively disgraceful that this was allowed to happen. He lost the right to any form of compassion when he took the lives of the poor women of Leeds.
Karl, London

I think he has a basic right to see where his Father's ashes were scattered. I wonder if some of those who object to this would feel differently about the issue if they were in his shoes.
Ben Paddon, Luton, England

I can't believe this has even made it in to the news, never mind as a lead story. Of course the man should be allowed to go and visit the site of his father's ashes.
Jo Wiltshire, London, UK

A full and comprehensive risk assessment may have been made but things can go wrong. Someone as dangerous as this should never be let out even if his current behaviour suggests he is no longer a danger to the public.
Luke Neave, London, England

The man is a multiple murderer and I don't think he merits this luxury
Klive, Scotland
This does not show much compassion toward the families of the victims They have paid the bigger price by far. I can understand if they are not satisfied with this procedure and once again the Home Office has got it very wrong. Where is the punishment for this man's heinous crimes? I don't see compassion as something that should be warranted. If he had gone to prison for stealing cars or something in that proximity I think this would then be appropriate but the man is a multiple murderer and I don't think he merits this luxury.
Klive, Scotland

Yes. If we refuse him compassion just because he had none, we lower ourselves to that level.
Chris, UK

Of course he should be allowed out to visit the site of his father's grave. It is too easy to think that just because we imprison people our duty of care to the individual is over.
Gary, London

Sutcliffe is obviously a very sick man (and I mean sick in terms of ill, not evil). What preventing this visit could possibly achieve for the families is unclear. This idea of a person being evil as opposed to ill is what has given rise to vicious and violent vigilantism.
Jen, Crawley

What a waste of time and money
Natalie, Leeds
I am shocked - what a waste of time and money. He did not deserve this right after taking so many lives, of his victims and the families of those he killed.
Natalie, Leeds

The main reason that this person has been locked up is because he is a danger to society. Visiting his father's ashes presents under constant supervision presents little danger to the public. Of course, there is a retributive element to incarceration, but don't you think being locked up for your entire life (less one supervised day-trip) is retribution enough? Just because an individual has shown no humanity to others, does that mean we should withdraw it ourselves?
David, London, UK

No! What he did leaves him deserving absolutely no privileges whatsoever. He should never see the outside world again
Lee Brawn, Chester, UK

So the man is allowed out of his prison cell for a few hours once in a lifetime to pay respects to an innocent man...why is that a problem?!
Mandeep Singh, Preston, UK

His late father won't benefit from the visit so why should Sutcliffe?
David, Frodsham, Cheshire

Heinous as his crimes were he should not be treated differently. Other prisoners are allowed out for personal reasons and there is no reason to have not allowed this visit.
Martin, England

Why wasn't he allowed the visit the funeral last year but allowed to visit the site now? Seems an odd decision.
Iain, UK

I work hard, live an honest life and have two daughters to care for. Why should I pay for this killer to go to anywhere?
Stuart, Gosport, Hants

I do not think that allowing him a few moments to pay last respects to his father is such a big deal
Jonathan Chibafa, Mortlake, London
What this man did was beyond evil and will always be hard to forgive. He has spent near a quarter of a century behind bars and nobody can dispute that he is paying for his crimes. With this in mind, I do not think that allowing him a few moments to pay last respects to his father is such a big deal.
Jonathan Chibafa, Mortlake, London

Why should he be allowed to visit? He gave no regard to the families of his victims so he should be made to suffer as others have had to!
Martin Hills, Swindon

One mark of a civilised society is how humane its penal system is but even so, I can't see what Sutcliffe's visit has achieved other than to cause potential upset to his victims' families.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

Unbelievable! Yet again the victims' families and the victims themselves are let down by our so-called government. He had no regard for his victims or their families when he took so many lives so why should we give him any respect now? Disgusting.
Nicola, Manchester

In this country, some of us tend to act with total hysteria the moment a situation such as this arises. If he were let out to do something for his own gratification then I could well understand an uproar ensuing, but to not let him out would have been to punish his father and that innocent man has been punished enough for the past 25 years. Let's try to see this for what it is and who it is for.
Dan, Colchester, England

Simply no. He didn't care about the families of his victims.
Anon, Swindon, UK

Yes indeed. I can understand why victims' families may have issues with this visit but his father was not a cold killer and should be treated with dignity. Despite the gross actions of his son, I don't really see what harm has been done.
Matthew Higgins, Reading, UK

He cared so little for his victims and yet the death of his loved one seems to shake this man so much so he would want to visit his fathers site one year later. What about his victims and their families? Did he ever think how they felt?
Cheryl, USA

The Ripper's father was guilty of no crime and deserved a goodbye from his son...
Les , Edinburgh

American prisoners hear about dead relatives and visit graves after they served their time
Mark, Detroit, USA
I don't believe letting Mr. Sutcliffe out was appropriate at all. Any prisoner caught and convicted of a crime waives the right to any activity in the outside of the prison during his sentence. This is the price you pay for breaking the law. What's next? Trips to the pub or mandatory visits to home for a while? American prisoners hear about dead relatives and visit graves after they served their time. Their lack of respect of the law and society demands no respect in return. This is harsh, but no more harsh than the dead bodies left in wake of Mr. Sutcliffe.
Mark, Detroit, USA

I worked for 10 years with sex offenders in prisons in England as part of a Chaplaincy team, before emigrating over here to the US. I personally believe in the death penalty for murder, but as long as you keep him alive, he should be in prison 'as' punishment, not 'for' punishment. We should extend him human rights - after all, we don't want to be like Abu Ghraib¿
Steve McDaniel, Sand Springs, OK, USA

A completely pointless argument that should never have been brought into the public domain. What the prison service do with Suttcliffe, as long as he remains in custody, is of no concern to the general publics.
Matt Bingham, Nottingham

It's tough trying defining just who should and shouldn't be allowed this type of visit. For instance should we grant this right to drunken drivers that have killed? But not people convicted of manslaughter? Maybe muggers but not armed robbers? Perhaps the simplest option is to treat all cases according to risk and not to see this as an opportunity to lighten or increase one's punishment.
Richard Archer, Essex, UK

Some of the opinions stated so far indicate a very callous element in our society with no compassion within them at all. It's hardly a 'luxury' to go and scatter your dead father's ashes. He made no concessions to the innocent people he killed, but our criminal justice system is based on a principle that society rises above the morality levels of a criminal, therefore, any man should be granted an opportunity to lay to rest a parent or sibling. Klive from scotland asks "where is the punishment for his crimes?" You cannot be suggesting that a few hours to scatter his father's ashes constitutes not paying for his crimes.
Andrew, Aberdeen, Scotland

Very bizarre. Why? He only deserves the death penalty certainly not deserving of any thing else!
Lucy Bickerstaff, Evesham, Worc's

Many women in Leeds were fearful of going out of their own front door when this horror was around. Why should he be able to leave his "front door" now? He should have been topped years ago then he would not have needed the £million it doubtless cost the taxpayers for his jaunt. Some respondents have little or no memory of this "man".
Chris Turton,

I feel for the families of all his inncocent victims
Kathryn, Essex
Prison is supposed to deprive a person of their liberty. Considering that Sutcliffe tried to claim schizophrenia and the voice of God had told him to kill - mimicking his wife's illness - to be told prison officials took him because they feared he was "depressed" is a little hard to accept. The man is a sociopath and hence cannot be 'cured' of his manipulative, deceitful and horrendous behaviour. I feel for the families of all his inncocent victims.
Kathryn, Essex

I can't see how whether or not he should be allowed a compassionate visit of this nature has anything to do with the crimes Sutcliffe committed, so yes, I think it was right. His punishment is that he is in prison for life, which is the most serious punishment this country currently allows - that is the justice he is receiving for his crimes. To deny him this visit would be on the same level as denying him decent food, shelter and so on, and if we did this we would be dealing in retribution not justice.
Sarah Allen, UK

Being dangerously insane may not be an excuse for behaviour but it is certainly a reason. Perhaps the media should be criticized for publishing the fact that a seriously, (mentally), ill person visited his Fathers remains.
Frazerd, Tidworth Wilts/Hants

The UK legal system relies on the payment of a debt to society. Society does not have to be lacking in compassion for anyone irrespective of their crimes.
John Wilson, UK

He gave up his rights to "normal" treatment when he murdered all those women
David Edwards, Spain
He gave up his rights to "normal" treatment when he murdered all those women. Just another example of how soft the UK is becoming
David Edwards, Spain

The Ripper should have been hung long ago. Geoffrey G Brooking Lincoln Lincolnshire
Geoffrey G Brooking, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

This is disgusting, he didn't care about the deaths of the people of my own town, so what gives him the right to see his fathers resting place? as he was allowed to see his fathers place of rest, he should be forced to visit the graves of the people whom he killed, to see the epitaphs and flowers to their memory that their relatives have laid down, so that he can see just how much of a monster he really is.
Andy Jenson, Leeds, England

Ripper visits father's ashes site
20 Jan 05 |  West Yorkshire


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