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Yorkshire Ripper prison move 'will save taxpayer hundreds of thousands'

Published 12/08/2016

Peter Sutcliffe has spent 32 years inside Broadmoor high security hospital
Peter Sutcliffe has spent 32 years inside Broadmoor high security hospital

The decision to move Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe out of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital and back into jail will save the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, an expert has said.

Dr Ruth Tully, a consultant forensic psychologist at the University of Nottingham, said cost would not have been a factor in the ruling that the serial killer is sane enough to be transferred.

Sutcliffe, 70, who has spent 32 years inside the high-security institution in Berkshire after murdering 13 women and attempting to kill seven more between 1976 and 1981, will also face a much tougher regime in prison, Dr Tully said.

Dr Tully said: "His clinical team have made a clinical decision, not based on cost, that he is well enough to be transferred to prison. The clinical team are there to assess mental health, risk to the patient, risk to the public - they cannot be weighted by a costs decision.

"It costs more to keep somebody in psychiatric care because there is a lot more treatment going on. It costs hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to keep someone in psychiatric care and thousands of pounds to keep someone in a category A prison."

Figures show that it costs around £325,000 per year to keep a patient in Broadmoor, compared to around £45,000 per year in a category A prison.

Sutcliffe, who has been in Broadmoor since 1984 after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia following his life sentence in 1981, will continue to have his mental health assessed in prison and could be returned to a psychiatric hospital if there is a change in his condition.

Dr Tully said: "This is a decision at this time but mental health is dynamic and changeable. If he became unwell again, psychiatrists would recommend him for sectioning back to hospital, which would have to be agreed."

She added: "He will be assessed to a different degree. He's likely to still be under a care pathway and have a psychiatrist responsible for his mental health care.

"Prisoners with mental health conditions can be managed very well and very safely and can be subject to ongoing review. Officers will make daily or half daily entries about his behaviour, compared to in hospital when there will be quite a detailed note made on a regular basis."

Dr Tully said the regimes are very different in each setting but he would still have some luxuries, such as a television in his room.

Sutcliffe would also be classed as a vulnerable prisoner in jail.

She said: "The environments are very different but there will be some similarities - prisoners have the right to have a TV.

"In a hospital, it's a much more comfortable setting, because you are a patient, entitled to adequate health care.

"The regime is run very differently. If you are well enough to be in prison, you are well enough to work in prison or engage in education or other meaningful activity.

"Certainly, he will be more vulnerable himself to assaults or abuse from other prisoners.

"He will be moved somewhere like Wakefield, a category A prison. He will be moved depending on how safe he is there, as a notorious patient or prisoner. There will have to be an adequate risk assessment in place."

The decision of the mental health tribunal has been referred to the Ministry of Justice, which still needs to confirm the move.

Sutcliffe, a former lorry driver from Bradford, now calls himself Peter Coonan. Most of his victims were prostitutes who were mutilated and beaten to death.

He was given 20 life terms for the murders and was caught when police found him with a prostitute in his car.

They became suspicious and found he had a fake licence plate and weapons including a screwdriver and hammer in the boot.

Before he was moved to Broadmoor, the killer spent three years at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Peter Coonan will remain locked up and will never be released for his evil crimes.

"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.

"Our thoughts are with Coonan's victims and their families."

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