Last minute delay in Billy Dunlop parole hearing 'absolutely disgraceful', says campaigning mum

Ann Ming fought for 17 years for a change in the law
-Credit: (Image: evening gazette)

A last minute delay in murderer William Dunlop's public parole hearing is "absolutely disgraceful", the mother of his victim has said.

The hearing for Dunlop, who strangled pizza delivery woman Julie Hogg in Billingham, in 1989, was adjourned after an eleventh hour request by the Ministry of Justice. Miss Hogg's mother, Ann Ming, complained to Parole Board staff at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, and could be heard saying: "It's absolutely disgraceful".

Ms Ming campaigned for 15 years to bring Dunlop to justice for her daughter's murder. Almost two hours after the hearing was supposed to begin, a statement was read out by staff announcing the postponement.

Members of the press and public were set to watch the proceedings - taking place at the prison where Dunlop is being held - on a live stream from a court room where large screens had been set up.

Ms Ming had been due to watch the hearing in a separate room, it is believed. Dunlop, known as Billy, was tried twice for Miss Hogg's murder but both juries failed to reach a verdict.

Julie Hogg
Julie Hogg

When later serving time behind bars for another crime, Dunlop confessed and admitted lying in court, boasting there was nothing anyone could do about it because of the double jeopardy rule in place at the time. Ms Ming campaigned to get the 800-year-old law changed so that he could be charged with the same crime twice.

Dunlop's case made legal history in 2006 when he became the first person to be tried under the new rules. He was convicted of murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years.

Ms Ming was made an MBE in 2007 in recognition of her services to the criminal justice system. Sheridan Smith snapped up the lead role as the Billingham mum for a new ITV drama.

Parole judges were set to review Dunlop's case on Tuesday to consider whether he is safe to be moved to a lower security jail or be released from prison. A Parole Board statement said the hearing had been postponed "at the request of the Ministry of Justice" after new information was produced "at the last minute".

William (Billy) Dunlop
William (Billy) Dunlop -Credit:Evening Gazette

A spokesperson said: "We are very sorry that the public hearing will not go ahead as planned today. We know that people have made time to attend, and that some have travelled to the hearing, and we are sorry that they have not been able to see the hearing today.

"The hearing has had to be adjourned, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, because they have produced at the last minute some additional information to be considered by the panel. We realise that this can be disappointing but we have an obligation to make sure that the hearing is fair for all parties.

"That means that the panel need to see all of the relevant information and the parties need to have enough time to be able to respond to it." The hearing will be re-listed, "as soon as the additional information has been shared and considered" the Parole Board said.

In 2022, then justice secretary Brandon Lewis blocked a bid to move Dunlop to an open prison in the interests of public protection despite a parole panel recommending the plan. Parole reviews typically take place behind closed doors but legal reforms which came into force in 2022 now allow some to be heard in public, when requested, in a bid to remove the secrecy around the process.

Last year Caroline Corby, chairwoman of the Parole Board for England and Wales, ruled Dunlop's parole hearing could be held in public partly due to the unique legal background to the case.

She also considered the victims' request for a public hearing, saying: "The victims feel that they have been let down in the past by the criminal justice system and they believe that a public hearing would be beneficial to them. The victims wish to attend a public hearing rather than a private hearing."

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