Colin Pitchfork, the child rapist and murderer who was sentenced to life in prison in 1988, will soon be a free man.
On 31 November 1983, Lynda Mann was raped and strangled by Pitchfork in Leicestershire; on 31 July 1986, Dawn Ashworth was raped and strangled by him in a neighbouring village. Both girls were just 15.
The pathologist who examined Dawn’s body, which had been hidden under branches in a field, said it showed signs of a 'brutal sexual assault'.
Pitchfork, who left his baby son in his car asleep when he raped and murdered Lynda Manns, showed no sign of remorse when caught.
Pitchfork had a history of violence against women. In 1979, he forced a 16-year-old girl into a field and sexually assaulted her before fleeing when he thought someone was approaching. He also orally raped a 16-year-old girl while threatening her with a screwdriver and a knife in October 1985. Pitchfork also admitted to having exposed his penis to more than 1,000 girls and women.
Is this really a man who should be released from prison?
For the most part, prisoners who have served their sentence and can demonstrate their successful rehabilitation should be considered for release. It is crucial that those who denounce their crimes and show that they are no longer a risk to the public are encouraged to contribute to society. Our criminal justice system is built on the principles of tolerance and forgiveness.
I co-founded Justice for Women, a feminist law reform group, in 1990 in order to support women who had been convicted of murder for defending themselves against violent men. Through this work I have met the best of prisoner’s rights campaigners and have come to understand the monstrosity that is our prison system. Unless a person is a danger to others they should not be locked up. In short, I would empty our jails of all but the most violent offenders.
But are all prisoners capable of being rehabilitated? Are serious sex offenders such as Pitchfork really safe around girls and women?
A psychiatric report at the time of his trial described Pitchfork as possessing a psychopathic personality disorder accompanied with a serious psycho sexual pathology. When he was jailed, a judge said of Pitchfork:
'From the point of view of the safety of the public, I doubt if he should ever be released.'
Yet soon, Pitchfork will be let out, after the Parole Board said it was safe to release the 61-year-old.
Will he be allowed access to a mobile phone, and the reams of violent and sadistic pornography available online? Pitchfork knows that if he falls foul of the law he could end up back in prison. But he will also be aware that rape is rarely reported to police and that few cases end up in court.
Back in 2009, when the Court of Appeal reduced Pitchfork's minimum term to 28 years, it was apparently impressed by the fact that Pitchfork had been educated 'to degree level' in prison. But I don't think his potential victims would really care about his enhanced education.
I don't trust the police and probation service to correctly monitor Pitchfork. There have been too many rapes and murders of women as a result of poor judgement when dangerous men are released. But as so often, the lives and safety of women and girls are of little value in the justice system.
So-called ‘carceral feminists’ are often likened to ‘law and order’ right-wingers and accused of pushing for longer sentences and harsher conditions in prisons. In fact, we are far more focussed on preventing male violence from happening in the first place than we are on mopping up the mess in its aftermath. Colin Pitchfork should die in jail.