FEARS are growing that quadruple killer Mark Hobson might one day walk free if other murderers succeed in challenging their own “life means life” sentences.
Hobson, who brutally murdered Strensall pensioners Joan and James Britton and twin sisters Claire and Diane Sanderson, of Camblesforth, near Selby, in 2004, was told by Britain’s most senior judge in 2005 that he must serve his whole life behind bars. The Lord Chief Justices’ ruling was welcomed at the time by relatives of the victims, with the Brittons’ daughter, Catherine Wilkins, saying she could finally grieve in peace and the sisters’ parents, George and Jacqueline Sanderson, saying: “Justice has been done.”
But now, two separate challenges to such whole life tariffs are under way by some of Britain’s most notorious killers, and if either is successful, there are concerns they could pave the way for Hobson also to launch a challenge against his sentence.
Five dangerous criminals, including London multiple rapist Michael Roberts and Kiaran Stapleton, who shot an Indian student in Salford at point-blank range, are appealing against such sentences at the Court of Appeal in London.
And the European Court of Human Rights’s Grand Chamber in Strasbourg is also due to hear separate appeals later this month by criminals including murderer Jeremy Bamber against a ruling by the court in January that their whole life terms did not amount to inhuman and degrading punishment and were not grossly disroportionate.
Tory MP Julian Sturdy, whose York Outer constituency includes Strensall, said he had concerns there would be a “knock-on” effect for Hobson if either of the appeals was to succeed. He said he felt very strongly that such murderers should spent the rest of their lives behind bars, and he would fight any attempt to remove Hobson’s whole life tariff.
Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams, who said he had lived in Camblesforth when he was younger and vividly remembered the killings, said he “sincerely hoped” the appeals would fail.
“When someone is given a life term for such a heinous crime, life should mean life,” he said.
Catherine Wilkins said she was aware of the forthcoming hearings but declined to comment.
Mr and Mrs Sanderson were unavailable for comment.
The Rev Jonas Mdumulla, vicar of Drax and Carlton, said he was in favour of the rehabilitation of offenders, but in this case the offences were so grave that he felt the whole life sentence should not be overturned.
Mr Mdumulla said the human rights of the victims and their families had to be taken into consideration, as well as those of the offender.