Arthur Hutchinson (murderer)
Born in Hartlepool, County Durham he attained notoriety in 1984 when he was convicted of three murders committed in Dore, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, on 23 October 1983. He has remained in prison ever since, and since 2008 has made a number of legal challenges to overturn an order by the Home Office that his life sentence should mean life and that he should never be paroled.
Hutchinson had already spent more than five years in prison for the attempted murder of his brother-in-law. On the morning of 28 September 1983 Hutchinson arrived at Selby Police Station charged with theft, burglary and rape. He asked to go to the toilet, and whilst there, he jumped through a window in an attempt to escape and sliced his knee open on barbed wire.
After three and a half weeks on the run, late on the night of 23 October 1983, Hutchinson broke into the home of Basil Laitner, 59, his 55-year-old wife Avril, and their 28-year-old son Richard via a patio window, and stabbed all three of them to death. He then raped their 18-year-old daughter Nicola at knife-point before fleeing. Just hours earlier, the family had hosted the wedding reception of their other daughter Suzanne at the house. It is believed that Hutchinson was planning to commit an armed robbery.
His identity was established by the description given by Nicola Laitner, and by scientific evidence in the form of a palm-print left on a champagne glass. After spending another two weeks on the run, wearing disguises and moving from place to place in Barnsley, Nottinghamshire, Manchester, York, and Scarborough, he was finally captured on a farm in Hartlepool on 5 November 1983.
During his trial, on 11 September 1984, Hutchinson accused Mike Barron, then a reporter with the Sunday Mirror, of committing the murders. Hutchinson was found guilty of all three murders and the rape on 14 September 1984 after a four-hour deliberation, and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum term of 18 years, which could have seen him released from prison in 2002 in the event of the Parole Board deciding that he no longer posed a risk.
After the conviction, the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, placed Hutchinson on the list of prisoners whose life sentences should mean life, meaning that he would probably never be released.
Appeals against sentence
Hutchinson later appealed against the Home Secretary's ruling. His case was heard on 16 May 2008 at the High Court, nearly six years after the final say on minimum terms for life sentence prisoners was transferred from the Home Secretary to the High Court. His solicitors argued that a whole life tariff was a breach of his human rights.
However, his appeal was rejected and the High Court agreed with the Home Secretary's ruling that life must mean life for Hutchinson.
Hutchinson lodged a second appeal against his sentence shortly afterwards, his case returning to the High Court on 6 October 2008, but this too was rejected.
On 13 July 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the whole life tariff was a breach of human rights. However, on 3 February 2015, Hutchinson lost an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights against his sentence, with the court's judges ruling that whole life tariffs were appropriate in certain cases, just as the High Court of England and Wales had 12 months earlier, on the condition that such sentences were reviewed within 25 years of the offender being sentenced. Within four months, however, it was reported that he was returning to the European Court of Human Rights for a fresh challenge against his sentence.
Referral to Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights
On 1 June 2015, Hutchinson's case was referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The referral was made at the request of Hutchinson and his case was heard by the Grand Chamber on 21 October 2015. On 17 January 2017, the Court ruled against Hutchinson, holding that the UK had the right to impose whole-life tariffs.
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- "Grand Chamber Panel's Decisions" (ECHR 179(2015)). Registrar of the Court, European Court of Human Rights. 3 June 2015. p. 4.
- editor, Alan Travis Home affairs (2017-01-17). "European judges uphold UK right to impose whole-life jail sentences". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-01-17.