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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 15:20 GMT
Sarah Payne killer to serve 50-year term
Roy Whiting
Whiting is serving life for murdering Sarah Payne
Paedophile Roy Whiting - jailed for life for murdering Sarah Payne - must serve a minimum term of 50 years, the government has announced.

Whiting, 43, who is serving time in Wakefield prison, West Yorkshire, was convicted in 2001 for the kidnap and murder of eight-year-old Sarah, from West Sussex.

Roy Whiting's van
Fibres from his van were found on Sarah's shoe

Now, the Home Office has confirmed he will not be considered for release under he is at least 93.

The tariff was set by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who this week faces the possibility of losing the power to fix minimum terms for convicted murderers under a case before the House of Lords.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the Home Secretary David Blunkett has set Roy Whiting's tariff at 50 years.

"It is consistent with recent decisions to set tariffs of 50 years for others who have been convicted of abducting and murdering young children in comparable circumstances."

The decision was welcomed by Sarah's mother, Sara, who feared Whiting would be freed within 20 years.

Tragic search

"We can finally step out of his shadow now," she told the News of the World.

"When we told the children the news there were big smiles from the boys."

Sarah was snatched by Whiting on July 1st 2000 near her grandparents home in West Sussex.

After a huge search, her body was discovered in a field 16 days later off the A29 at Pulborough.

At Whiting's trial, judge Mr Justice Richard Curtis said it was a rare case in which he would recommend a life sentence should mean life.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer: Life means life
Home Office minister Lord Falconer said there are certain cases where "life should definitely mean life".

"If it doesn't mean life there would be people in this country who would rightly think the criminal justice system was not producing punishments which fit the crime," he added.

The Home Secretary's power to set minimum jail terms for killers is currently being challenged by a convicted killer.

Anthony Anderson claims his human rights have been breached by the increase of his minimum prison sentence to 20 years, after his trial judge had recommended 15.

If he wins his House of Lords appeal, it could open the way for more than 20 murderers with "whole life" tariffs to have new minimum terms decided by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.

Parliamentary power

It would also allow 260 other inmates whose sentences were increased by the Home Secretary, to have their cases reviewed.

Prisoners given life sentence can be locked up for life, at the home secretary's discretion, or be recalled to prison.

If the case goes against Mr Blunkett he has vowed to then bring in a new law to make sure "life means life".

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said if the power was taken away from the minister, it should be given to Parliament.

The BBC's Richard Lister
"Roy Whiting was described in court as every parents' nightmare"
Daily Telegraph legal editor Joshua Rozenburg
"I don't believe the tariff system will last anything like 50 years"
Mark Littlewood, Liberty campaign director
"It's extraordinary to put these powers in the hands of politicians"

Click here for more from Southern Counties
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children


See also:

21 Oct 02 | Politics
08 Jul 02 | Politics
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