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Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 10:13 GMT
Should Hindley have been freed?
Hindley at the time of her arrest, and later in prison
Hindley changed utterly after the murders, say friends
The death of Moors murderess Myra Hindley has sparked debate about when it is right to keep someone in jail until they die.

Some say Hindley's crimes were so heinous, that a whole life sentence was the only suitable punishment.

Others say Hindley had repented of her crimes and, as a reformed character should have been released.

Michael Howard, former home secretary who ruled in the 1990s that for Hindley, "life should mean life".

When the death penalty was abolished [in 1965, one year before Hindley's conviction], it was a very serious step to take.


It is difficult to imagine circumstances in which [a life term] would be a more necessary punishment

Michael Howard
It was decided as part of that momentous decision that special arrangements should be put in place to deal with people who were convicted of murder, in recognition of the fact that murder is a uniquely heinous crime.

It was decided that the sentence for murder, the mandatory sentence, should be life imprisonment.

That would not always mean that the person would spend the rest of their life in prison, but it would in some circumstances.

Frankly, it is difficult to imagine circumstances in which it would be a more necessary punishment, than in the dreadful case of Myra Hindley.

The point is that the tariff which the home secretary sets reflects the appropriate punishment for the act that was committed, and these were unspeakably dreadful acts.

They were I think perhaps unparalleled in the course of recent criminal history.

If life imprisonment can in some circumstances mean that a person should spend the rest of their life in prison, then it is very difficult to imagine a case in which that is a more appropriate punishment than this one.

Friend, supporter and biographer Peter Stanford.

I take the other view in the sense that I think we end up by judging Myra Hindley on her crimes 30 years ago, and we seem to have taken no account whatsoever of her behaviour once she was in prison.

If we run a prison system whose sole purpose is to lock people up, then obviously - keep her in prison.

But if we run a prison service where we hope there can be the possibility of reform, rehabilitation, redemption - in that sense she was a reformed, rehabilitated woman.


Yes the crimes were terrible, and yes we have to look at that, but what we did to her was terribly cruel

Peter Stanford
I believe that she had changed, but you don't have to take my word for it.

Look at the reports that were compiled by psychiatrists, prison governors, prison chaplains - all the people whose word we would normally take in deciding whether someone should be paroled.

They all said Myra Hindley was a reformed character and no longer a threat to society.

On that basis she qualifies for parole.

One of the things that was often said about Myra Hindley was that she never showed any remorse.

That absolutely isn't true. It was a thing she said most often, certainly in the latter decade of her life.

It's very important to get that across, because I don't think we ever particularly wanted to hear that from her.

We wanted to believe that she didn't show remorse.

Yes, the crimes were terrible, and yes, we have to look at that, but what we did to her was terribly cruel.


Key stories

The Moors murderers

Who was Hindley?

AUDIO VIDEO
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more England stories

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