'DNA' killer gets parole review
The Parole Board has begun reviewing the case of the first man to be convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence.
Colin Pitchfork was jailed for life in 1988 for killing two schoolgirls.
He received a 30-year minimum which was cut to 28 years in 2009.
A spokesman for the Parole Board said: "We can confirm that the Secretary of State for Justice has referred the case of Colin Pitchfork to the Parole Board for a review of his suitability for release. If the Board does not direct his release, it has been asked to advise the Secretary of State on his suitability for open conditions (Category D prison)."
Once a case has been referred to the Board, it usually takes around six months before a decision is issued.
Pitchfork argued at his appeal against sentence that the 30 years was ''manifestly'' excessive.
He was jailed at Leicester Crown Court in 1988 after pleading guilty to two offences of murder, two of rape, two of indecent assault and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Announcing the decision to reduce the minimum term by two years in 2009, the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said the appeal was being allowed to a ''very restricted and limited extent relating to exceptional progress in custody''.
He emphasised that the decision ''has no bearing whatever on the continuing effect of the sentence of life imprisonment on the appellant''.
The judge added: ''He cannot be released unless and until the safety of the public is assured.''
Pitchfork's first victim was 15-year-old Lynda Mann, of Narborough, who was murdered in 1983. Dawn Ashworth, also 15, from Enderby, was killed in 1986. Both girls were raped and strangled.
After the world's first mass screening for DNA - where 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples - he was eventually caught.
The Lord Chief Justice at the time said after he was jailed that ''from the point of view of the safety of the public I doubt if he should ever be released''.
Lord Judge said in 2009 that Pitchfork's progress since he was first incarcerated ''goes far beyond general good behaviour and positive response to his custodial sentence, but reflects very creditable assistance to disabled individuals outside the prison system''.
He added: ''On the evidence before us he has sought to address the reasons behind the commission of these offences. He has achieved a high standard of education, to degree level.
''In 20 years in custody he has never been placed on report and he is trusted to help with the well-being of fellow inmates.''
Lord Judge said: ''Beyond all that he has made himself a specialist in the transcription of printed music into Braille, thus using the opportunities he has taken to educate himself in prison to the benefit of others.
''This is an intensely specialised skill and his work is used throughout this country and internationally with the support of the RNIB.''
Lord Judge said the court could not ''identify any sufficient reason'' why the exceptional progress made ''should not be recognised and given practical effect in the assessment now to be made of the minimum term to be served by the appellant'', and reduced it by two years.
Dawn's mother Barbara told a BBC Radio Leicester programme broadcast earlier this month: "He has no right to any freedom at all, because he took the lives of two girls, and their choices and life and hopes and dreams were just taken away from them, and why should he be able to continue his life normally?
"I think life should mean life, because obviously if they're in prison they aren't put in a situation where they can commit these sort of crimes again.
"I think the key should have been thrown away long ago."