Our parole board isn't fit for purpose, writes JULIE BINDEL

The case of Colin Pitchfork is proof our parole board is not fit for purpose, writes domestic violence campaigner JULIE BINDEL

Shortly before Colin Pitchfork was released from prison in September, where he’d been serving 31 years for the rape and murder of two schoolgirls, I wrote that he should die in jail. I still believe he should.

Today, Pitchfork is back behind bars after apparently breaching the terms of his release. He has reportedly been seen approaching young women while out on walks alone – walks which seemingly he was entitled to take.

Even now, there is a chance he will be able to return to normal life provided he can persuade parole officers that he is no longer a risk to girls and women.

But how can they know this, and if the Parole Board’s number one priority really is the safety of the public – as it claims – why was he even considered for release?

A mugshot of Colin Pitchfork, the first murderer convicted and jailed using DNA evidence

I do not speak out in these extreme terms out of a desire for vengeance on behalf of his victims and their families.

I am not a hanger and flogger. If I ran the judicial system, only people who are demonstrably a threat to the public would be incarcerated.

But the fact is that men convicted of grotesque sexual crimes such as Pitchfork’s cannot be ‘cured’, however skilfully they manipulate psychologists and the Parole Board.

Members of the board who sanctioned his release may today feel let down. But let us not forget what sort of man we are dealing with.

Pitchfork raped and strangled Lynda Mann (right) in Narborough, Leicestershire, in November 1983 and raped and murdered Dawn Ashworth (left) three years later in the nearby village of Enderby

Here is someone who raped and strangled two 15-year-old girls, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old, raped another teenager and admitted to having exposed himself to more than 1,000 girls and women over a lifetime of sexual offending.

He has repeatedly proved his inability to contain his repulsive urges to degrade, defile and murder girls and women.

I believe that, in principle, those who have served their sentence and can demonstrate their successful rehabilitation should be considered for release. But are all prisoners capable of being rehabilitated? Are serious sex offenders such as Pitchfork ever safe around girls and women? Not in my view. Men like Pitchfork attack women whenever the opportunity arises, as his long criminal record confirms.

He was described in a psychiatric report at the time of his trial as possessing a psychopathic personality disorder accompanied with a serious psycho-sexual pathology.

A judge said of him: ‘From the point of view of the safety of the public, I doubt if he should ever be released.’

Yet despite government objections, the Parole Board decided it had little choice, given the time he had served and the results of reports commissioned on him, but to release this predator.

The board is constrained by the old-fashioned ideal that you come home once you have served your time. To some this may be a noble principle of a rehabilitative prison system, but as a feminist, I immediately spot the flaw. It fails to take account of women’s welfare and their own freedom to live without fear.

‘Pitchfork is back behind bars after apparently breaching the terms of his release. He has reportedly been seen approaching young women while out on walks alone – walks which seemingly he was entitled to take’

Pitchfork’s release in the teeth of advice means the system must be urgently reformed. No prisoners should go free until a proper risk assessment has been carried out. There have been too many rapes and murders of women as a result of poor judgement when dangerous men are released.

Let us be clear about the Pitchfork case. Because of enormous media interest in his release, he was being monitored very closely, which is why his behaviour raised alarm.

But less notorious, though equally determined, sexual predators are being released as a matter of routine, and not subject to such scrutiny.

In my campaigning on this issue, I have been likened to ‘law and order’ Right-wingers and accused of pushing for ‘life means life’ punitive sentences to make political points.

In truth, I am a Left-wing feminist concerned with preventing male violence against women.

To protect women from harm, and to show girls that their lives matter too, the likes of Colin Pitchfork do not deserve a second chance.

Julie Bindel is a feminist writer and domestic violence campaigner 

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