Colin Pitchfork: Ministry of Justice to challenge Parole Board decision allowing release of child killer

·2-min read

The Ministry of Justice will challenge the Parole Board decision to release Colin Pitchfork, who raped and murdered two schoolgirls in the 1980s.

Pitchfork was handed a life sentence with a minimum 30-year term after strangling Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, both 15, in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986 respectively.

The Parole Board cleared Pitchfork as "suitable for release" following a hearing in March.

The decision was made despite him being denied freedom at previous hearings in 2016 and 2018.

The MoJ said today that it would officially appeal against the decision on Monday.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland will formally ask the board - which is independent of the government - to reassess the decision.

He said earlier this month that he was considering the case "very carefully".

An MoJ spokesperson said: "Our heartfelt sympathies remain with the families of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth.

"After a careful review, the Lord Chancellor will ask the Parole Board to reconsider its decision."

Mr Buckland will ask the Parole Board to reconsider under the provisions of the "reconsideration mechanism".

It allows people to challenge the board's decision if they believe it has been "procedurally unfair" or "irrational".

It is understood the intervention has been made on the basis the decision was irrational.

But simply "being unhappy" is not grounds for reconsideration.

Once the appeal has been received and the victims' families have expressed their views, the Parole Board must decide whether to formally reconsider its decision.

Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence.

He was jailed in 1988 at Leicester Crown Court for the attacks, which happened when he was in his 20s.

Pitchfork pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two of rape, two of indecent assault and a further one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Pitchfork's minimum term was reduced by two years in 2009.

A document outlining the Parole Board's decision said: "After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Pitchfork was suitable for release."

The board considered more than 1,1000 pages of information, together with victim statements.

They also heard evidence from Pitchfork, now in his 60s, as well as his probation officers, police and a psychologist.

South Leicestershire MP, Alberto Costa, described the decision to release Pitchfork as "appalling" and said his "egregious crimes cast a shadow over the constituency".

Mr Costa has long campaigned against Pitchfork's release - and said he was "delighted" by the MoJ intervention.

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