Sunday, 27 June 2021

Colin Pitchfork ~ Government requests reconsideration of Parole Board decision

Updated 13 July 2021

22 November 1983, Narborough, Leicestershire. The body of 15 year old Lynda Mann was found. She had been strangled and raped. Her body was naked from the waist down and her face bloodied. Biologists established that a semen sample taken from her body belonged to someone with Type A blood, and a particular type of enzyme secretion, a combination shared by around 10% of men. (Note 1).

31 July 1986, Dawn Ashworth (aged 15) went missing and her body was found near to the same spot where Lynda has been found. Dawn had also been strangled, raped and left naked from the waist down.

There was a suspect - a 17 year old hospital porter called Richard Buckland. He had been seen near the crime scene. When interviewed he revealed details about Dawn's murder and about her body. Those details were not available publicly at the time. Before long he confessed to the murder of Dawn but denied killing Lynda.

The Police

approached Alec Jeffreys at Leicester University and DNA analysis showed that the same man must have committed the two murders and it was NOT Richard Buckland who was therefore exonerated.

In 1987, a woman in a local public house overheard a local man (Ian Kelly) boasting to his friends that he had made £200 by posing at the DNA sampling as another man called Colin Pitchfork who had asked Kelly to take the test for him. The woman went to the Police, Pitchfork was arrested and his DNA matched that found at the crime scenes.

The Forensics Library - Colin Pitchfork

In January 1988, in the Crown Court at Leicester, Pitchfork pleaded guilty to the murders and was sentence by Mr Justice Otton to life imprisonment - the mandatory sentence for murder. Sentences for rape, indecent assault, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice were also imposed. 

In 1994, the Home Secretary (Michael Howard) set Pitchfork's "tariff" at 30 years. An appeal was heard in 2009 and the minimum term of imprisonment set at 28 years - Pitchfork [2009] EWCA Crim 963. The reduction by 2 years reflected "exceptional progress" made by Pitchfork during his imprisonment - (see para 29 of the judgment).

In June 2021, the Parole Board decided that it was safe to release Pitchfork on licence with conditions attached to the release.

Following the Worboys case, the government reviewed the law, policy and procedure relating to the workings of the Parole Board - see HERE.  One of the outcomes was the introduction of a "Reconsideration Mechanism" which came into effect on 22 July 2019.

The Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Robert Buckland MP - Note 2) has decided to ask the Parole Board to reconsider the decision - The Guardian 25 June.

IF a case like Pitchfork was to be sentenced today, it would be highly likely to attract a Whole Life Order under Schedule 21 Criminal Justice Act 2003. 

Pitchfork is not subject to a whole life order. It is acknowledged that he has made exceptional progress whilst in prison and in recent years he has been held in open prison where prisoners complete their sentences with a lower degree of supervision and security.

Under Parole Board Rules 2019 (Rule 28), a decision to release a prisoner can be reconsidered on grounds of procedural unfairness (i.e. the correct process was not followed in the review of the offender) or irrationality (i.e. the decision makes no sense based on the evidence of risk that was considered and that no other rational panel could come to the same conclusion. Being unhappy with the decision is not grounds for reconsideration.

It is reported that Mr Buckland's request for reconsideration is based on the irrationality ground.

27 June 2021.

Notes:

Note 1 - the crime details in this post are taken from "Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime" - Val McDermid - Profile Books 2014.

Note 2 - No relation to the Richard Buckland mentioned earlier.

Update 13 July:

The Secretary of State's application for reconsideration of the Parole Board decisions was refused - see

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