The release of Harry Roberts from prison, having served 48 years for the murder of three unarmed officers, is yet another example of how being sentenced to life imprisonment does not actually mean a person will stay in prison for the rest of their life.
It’s far from surprising that the release has angered many within the policing family, especially as Roberts had been assessed as still posing a risk to the public as recently as 2009.
Forty-eight years is very a long time but it’s nowhere near the number of years of life that were lost by the officers who were so brutally murdered whilst executing their duty aged just 25, 30 and 41 years old.
I felt a similar level of disgust when Frederick Joseph Sewell was released from prison back in 2001, having served 30 years for shooting and killing Superintendent Gerry Richardson, after an armed robbery at a jeweller’s shop in Blackpool.
Although I was only 10 years old at the time of the murder, I remember the aftermath of that shocking crime vividly.
Gerry and his wife only lived a few streets away and he was a colleague of my father’s, who was also a Blackpool police officer.
Controversial releases such as these will always cause heated debate, and for every person who thinks the system is soft, there are perhaps even more who will consider that these criminals have served their time in prison and should now be left alone.
Some may point out that whether these people had been hanged or kept in prison it does not bring back the officers that they killed.
I worry that in the years to come, attempts will be made to amend the whole life tariff handed to Dale Cregan, who was convicted of the murders of police constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, only last year. As these horrendous crimes are still within recent living memory then the majority of people will perhaps simply dismiss the chances of that happening as a flight of fancy.
My answer to that would be, I bet that’s what the police and public thought about Harry Roberts back in 1966 and now look what’s happened.
I think the sentence for someone who murders a police officer in his or her line of duty should be life imprisonment and that really should mean life.