Roy Whiting, the man convicted in 2000 of the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne and currently serving a life sentence for the crime, has been granted permission to apply for parole after serving 40 years instead of the 50 years he was handed by then-Home Secretary David Blunkett upon conviction.
Since his initial imprisonment, the law has changed so that it is now judges, not the Home Secretary, who decide when a prisoner may apply for parole – a factor in the court battle which resulted in the decision to reduce Whiting’s tariff.
This decision has drawn criticism from many sides, including the general public. A survey for the Sun newspaper has found that 76% of the British public think that the judge’s decision to reduce Whiting’s sentence was ‘wrong’. Only eleven percent in total believes that the courts were ‘right’.
Payne’s mother, Sara, spoke out against the decision, yesterday saying, “...that man is a danger to children and will be so as long as he lives and breathes.” She added, he “should die in prison”.
Conservative voters are slightly more condemnatory than others, with 81% calling the courts ‘wrong’ compared to 78% of Labour voters and 73% of Liberal Democrats supporters. Women are also more likely than men to support the maintenance of a longer term sentence for Whiting, with 80% condemning the courts’ decision compared to 73% of men.