Child rapist and killer Colin Pitchfork’s crimes “were so appalling” he’d die behind bars if he committed the murders now, Alex Chalk has declared.
The Justice Secretary told the Daily Express that Pitchfork would never be released if he were sentenced now as part of the Government’s “life means life” campaign.
He also admitted he is “concerned” about Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth’s families going through “torture” as their daughter’s killer bids for freedom.
Mr Chalk revealed that he believes the Parole Board “should have no role at all” deciding whether the most dangerous criminals should be released. He said a ministerial veto of the worst murderers is “right” and acts as a “second pair of eyes”, observing decisions that could hit public safety.
Pitchfork, 63, lost his latest bid for freedom in December but, having contested the decision, will now face a fresh parole hearing which could see him released from jail.
Mr Chalk told the Daily Express: “The first thing I want to say about Colin Pitchfork is his crimes were so appalling that if he had been sentenced today, because of the changes we’ve made, it is overwhelmingly likely that life would mean life and he would never be getting out.
“All this business about Parole hearings would simply not happen. I am really concerned about the fact that the families are being put through this, that there seems to have been two decisions by the Parole Board which have been overturned.
“We are concerned because it must be putting the families through torture. That is why I am arranging to meet the Parole Board urgently.”
Asked if he was concerned the Parole Board is being hoodwinked by dangerous offenders, Mr Chalk told this newspaper: “We believe that for the most dangerous offenders, the Parole Board should have no role at all, because we think life should be life and that is why in our Sentencing Bill, anybody who kills someone in the context of sexual, or sadistic behaviour could expect never to see the light of freedom again.
“That is why the cases like the Sarah Everard case, we would expect that those murderers never to get out.
“We think it is absolutely right that even though the Parole Board, in the overwhelming majority of cases, makes sensible decisions in difficult circumstances, for the most dangerous offenders, we think it is right that there is a ministerial step to have a second pair of eyes.
“That is just fair for British citizens. We want to protect the public. And we think that means ensuring there is a second look on these decisions.”
Pitchfork was jailed for life in 1988 after raping and strangling two 15-year-olds, Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.
He was given a minimum term of 30 years, later reduced to 28 years due to progress he had made in prison, and was released in September 2021.
But Pitchfork was back behind bars two months later after breaching his licence conditions when he approached a lone woman while litter-picking.
Pitchfork, then 27, became the first man to be convicted in the UK using DNA fingerprinting evidence. He initially persuaded a work colleague to provide a DNA sample pretending to be him.
He was later suspected of trying to cheat lie detector tests, according to parole papers.
Documents said he was subjected to polygraph tests in 2021 and “it was believed that Mr Pitchfork was deliberately seeking to undermine the testing process by controlling his breathing”.
Parole Board decisions on whether to release criminals from prison are initially provisional.
The body’s rules stipulate both the prisoner and the Justice Secretary – on behalf of victims, their families and the public – have 21 days to appeal against a ruling on the grounds it is irrational, procedurally unfair and/or there had been an error of law.
The Parole Board reviews the application, decides whether it is eligible for reconsideration and, if so, orders a fresh hearing to determine the case again.
Conservative MP Alberto Costa has repeatedly warned criminals are gaming the Parole Board to get out of prison.
He warned of Pitchfork: “He remains a danger to the public and as we read in the parole board’s decision in December last year not to release him, the grounds upon which that decision was based were that Pitchfork was unable to demonstrate that his attitude towards women was different.
“In other words, the Parole Board remained unconvinced, given Pitchfork’s continuing worrying attitude towards women.
“The idea therefore, that Pitchfork is now claiming that it is irrational not to release him is ludicrous.”