Yorkshire Ripper: tribunal rules Peter Sutcliffe can be sent to mainstream prison

Peter Sutcliffe, now Peter Coonan, may be released from Broadmoor after mental illness judged to be under control

The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women, may be released from the secure psychiatric hospital Broadmoor and sent to a mainstream prison after a tribunal concluded that his mental illness was under control.

Sutcliffe was given 20 life sentences when he was convicted in 1981, but was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1984 and transferred to Broadmoor in Berkshire.

On Thursday, a mental health tribunal ruled that he no longer required clinical treatment and could therefore be moved back into the mainstream prison system. He is serving a whole-life tariff and will die in jail.

The Ministry of Justice must now decide whether or not to approve the tribunal’s decision on Sutcliffe, now known as Peter Coonan.

An MoJ spokeswoman said: “Decisions over whether prisoners are to be sent back to prison from secure hospitals are based on clinical assessments made by independent medical staff.

“The high court ordered in 2010 that Peter Coonan should never be released. This was upheld by the court of appeal. Peter Coonan will remain locked up and will never be released for his evil crimes. Our thoughts are with Coonan’s victims and their families.”

Sutcliffe killed 13 women, many of whom were prostitutes, and injured seven more in West Yorkshire between 1975 and 1980. He was finally captured by police after he was pulled over with a prostitute in his car while driving with false number plates.

At his trial in 1981, he pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and claimed that he had heard the voice of God telling him to kill people. The judge dismissed this defence and insisted that the case be heard by a jury, who found him guilty on all 13 counts of murder.

Sutcliffe applied to have a minimum term set to his sentence, but in 2010, the high court ruled that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

A psychiatric report submitted to the high court said he had been given anti-psychotic medication since 1993, which had successfully contained his mental illness.

In December, a report by medical experts recommended that he be moved from psychiatric hospital to prison.

  • This article was amended on 12 August 2016 to clarify that Peter Sutcliffe pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Tim Wyatt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Peter Sutcliffe should be returned to jail, say psychiatrists
Doctors say that man known as Yorkshire Ripper, who was convicted of murdering 13 women in 1981, is no longer mentally ill

Alan Travis and agencies

01, Dec, 2015 @12:14 PM

Article image
Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe challenges full-life jail sentence
Sutcliffe, who is in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, is seeking a finite sentence because he was mentally ill at the time of the killings

Caroline Davies

30, Nov, 2010 @7:12 PM

Article image
Hundreds of mentally ill prisoners denied urgent treatment in England
Most seriously ill inmates left to wait in cells often due to bed shortages at secure hospitals, data shows

Tom Wall

10, May, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
Ministers 'should have legal duty to combat rise in prison suicides'
MPs and peers call for minimum ratio of prison officers to prisoners in each jail to be a legal requirement

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

02, May, 2017 @1:23 PM

Article image
Prison suicide rate is a scandal, says HM chief inspector
Peter Clarke says public inquiry should be considered after spike in self-inflicted deaths

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

09, Jul, 2019 @2:37 PM

Article image
Rise in prison assaults, self-harm and drug seizures signals crisis
Charity says statistics are result of austerity and government must invest in community alternatives in England and Wales

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

26, Jul, 2018 @2:08 PM

Article image
Care failings contributed to death of woman in prison, inquest finds
Concerns raised about suicide monitoring and mental health at inquest into death of Sarah Reed who took her life in Holloway

Diane Taylor

20, Jul, 2017 @4:47 PM

Article image
One prison suicide every three days in England and Wales, say reformers
Penal reform groups warn of mental health epidemic, with prison suicide rate 10 times higher than among general population

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

28, Nov, 2016 @12:01 AM

Article image
Yorkshire Ripper must never be freed, appeal court rules

Judges reject Sutcliffe plea, and say the interests of justice demand 'nothing less' than a whole life sentence.

Alan Travis

14, Jan, 2011 @12:59 PM

Article image
Peter Sutcliffe should never be freed | Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel: Because the Yorkshire Ripper killed women, he is seen as mad. But these were heinous hate crimes and he should die in jail

Julie Bindel

02, Mar, 2010 @2:00 PM