"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

British Justice is an Oxymoron (IX): The Case of the Stockwell Strangler

Kenneth Erskine, a serial killer who strangled and sexually abused at least 7 frail pensioners in their own homes during a 15 week reign of terror in 1988, has had his convictions downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

Although he will never be freed - his prison term was converted to a hospital order - the legal battle cost the British taxpayer over £100,000.

From the Mail:

One of Britain's most notorious serial killers had his convictions downgraded from murder to manslaughter - at a huge cost to the public purse.

Taxpayers face a bill of more than £100,000 after Kenneth Erskine, the so-called Stockwell Strangler, who killed seven pensioners in a 15-week reign of violence, won a state-funded appeal against his convictions.

But despite his victory, which saw murder verdicts reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, it was made clear he will never be freed.

Erskine will now have his prison term converted to a hospital order. He will remain a patient at Broadmoor mental hospital for the rest of his life.

Critics questioned whether it was really necessary to bring the case to court at all.

Erskine was 24 when sentenced in January 1988 for strangling seven frail male and female victims aged between 67 and 94 in their South London homes.

The Old Bailey heard the strangler, who had a mental age of ten, was a 'killer who liked killing'.

He was convicted and jailed for a minimum of 40 years.

For his appeal, Erskine's legal team - led by barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC, who represented Moors murderess Myra Hindley - produced fresh evidence he was suffering from an 'abnormality' of the mind at the time of the killings.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges at the Court of Appeal in London, agreed to quash the murder conviction and impose an indefinite hospital order in its place.

Lord Judge said: 'This is a straightforward case. It is overwhelmingly clear that, at the time when the appellant appeared at trial, there was unequivocal contemporaneous evidence that his mental responsibility for his actions at the time of the killing was substantially impaired.'

At a recent hearing of his appeal, Mr Fitzgerald told Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Treacy: 'Our submission is that these were crimes of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, rather than murder.'

Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Horne, a consultant at Broadmoor for 20 years, said in evidence that Erskine was suffering from severe schizophrenia which would have diminished his responsibility to a 'massive degree'.

Sources at the High Court confirmed the serial killer was on legal aid and said his costs would be 'well over £100,000'.

His victims were Eileen Emms, 78, Janet Cockett, 67, Valentine Gleim, 84, Zbigniew Strabawa, 94, William Downes, 74, William Carmen, 84, and Florence Tisdall, 83.

All seven were strangled to death and most were also sexually assaulted.


Dr.D said...

My, that was productive! Money well spent! Helpful too! What else can we spend some public money on today?

Anonymous said...

The only point of this legal action was to enrich the lawyers. It made no sense otherwise.

DP111 said...

No change in Erskine's terms of imprisonment but a nice little earner for the lawyers.

Legal Aid is precisely what it says on the can - financial aid for the legal profession.