[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 14 May 2004, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Why come down so hard on Carr?
Maxine Carr
An injunction is in place to protect Carr on release
A High Court injunction protects the new identity of Maxine Carr as she is released from jail on Friday.

So why have she - and other murderers' partners - been so vilified by the media and public?

The injunction is supported by a Home Office concerned for Carr's health and safety, in an atmosphere of public hostility, in the wake of the Soham murders.

But 27-year-old Carr was jailed for conspiring to pervert the course of justice with her ex-fiancÚ, Soham killer Ian Huntley - an offence far more minor than the killings themselves.

Despite this, mobs gathered outside court during her first appearances.

Protesters screamed messages of abuse and pelted the police van with eggs as she was driven to an initial hearing at Peterborough Magistrates Court.

On Friday she starts a new life, under the care of the national probation service.

These women are represented as 'unwomaned' by their relationship to these men
Beatrix Campbell
She will serve a three-year community rehabilitation order after pleading guilty to benefit and job application fraud.

It follows the 21 months she spent in custody for lying to police in the Soham investigation.

But Carr has met the kind of press and public reaction usually saved for murderers like child killer Mary Bell, killers' wives like Rosemary West or Primrose Shipman or the most notorious, moors murderer Myra Hindley.

In Carr's trial, her barrister Michael Hubbard QC drew a comparison, saying Carr had been "vilified" and cast alongside Hindley.

Public judgement

Professor of women's studies at Newcastle University Beatrix Campbell followed the Myra Hindley case.

She believes there is a "bizarre imperative" to invent Carr as the new Hindley, after the Moors murderer's death.

There is, she said, an attempt to portray her as "a relentlessly, transgressive, dangerous woman involved in horrendous crimes against children".

And, she believes society is "absolutely" tougher on women who kill or who are partners of murderers.

They were all in the thrall, all the servants of domineering, dangerous men
Beatrix Campbell

"There's a sense in which these women are represented as 'unwomaned' by their relationship to these men, by their implication in offences against children," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Meanwhile, the bigger picture of their situation is ignored.

"There's a story which is untold about these women.

"They were all targeted, enlisted as lieutenants in projects designed by men who overwhelmed them and gave them only one source of power - to protect those men's secrets.

'Scared and submissive'

"All of these women were not actually the perpetrators but they were all in the thrall, all terrified, all the servants of domineering, dangerous men.

"They were less transgressive than they were scared and submissive."

Over time, Professor Campbell believes, the media and public could gain a perspective on the level of Carr's involvement in the case.

And guidance under the probation service will give her a chance to rebuild her life after prison.

"I think the recent offences that she has been convicted of do give her a real chance, paradoxically," she said.

"It connects her with one of the intelligent bits of our criminal justice system.

She said the probation system was "interested in 'how do you help somebody who has been abject, subordinate, ashamed of themselves, emerge from a dreadful experience with some self-respect and some useful self-determination?'

"That's what we should be interested in, not whether we can find this woman holed up in some seaside resort and name and shame her."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Her lawyers obtained a court injunction restricting how journalists report her future"



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific