WYP chief apologies for 'language, tone and terminology' used by officers in original Yorkshire Ripper investigation

West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable John Robins has publicly apologised to the relatives of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutciffe, for the additional distress and anxiety caused by the language, tone and terminology used by senior officers at the time of the original invesigation.

Nov 13, 2020
By Tony Thompson

His comments followed news that Sutcliffe had died in hospital at the age of 74 and an appeal from the son of Sutcliffe’s first recognised victim.

Richard McCann had earlier appealed to West Yorkshire Police to make a formal apology for the way in which his mother and other victims  were described by officers in the 1970s.

He said he wanted the force “once and for all” to “apologise to the families, who are still around, for the way in which they described some of the women as ‘innocent’, inferring that some were not innocent”.

Serial killer Sutcliffe was serving a whole-life term for murdering 13 women across Yorkshire and northwest England. He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of seven women and convicted in 1981. He spent three decades at Broadmoor Hospital before being moved to HMP Frankland in County Durham in 2016.

He died in hospital where he is said to have refused treatment for Covid-19.

Mr Robins said: “Peter Sutcliffe was convicted at court in 1981 for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven other victims, in crimes which created a climate of fear across the country.

“I am sure the news of his death will bring back a range of mixed emotions and trauma for surviving victims and relatives of those whose lives he cruelly took away.

“Those who died and were assaulted, as well as those relatives who are still suffering today, are at the forefront of our thoughts and our condolences.

“The investigation into offences committed by Peter Sutcliffe was, at the time, the largest ever conducted by a UK police force and was subject to two exhaustive reviews in the immediate aftermath.

“The 1981 report by Sir Lawrence Byford and a subsequent review conducted by former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Colin Sampson identified the extensive efforts made by the inquiry team, as well as what clearly went wrong.

“Failings and mistakes that were made are fully acknowledged and documented. We can say without doubt that the lessons learned from the Peter Sutcliffe inquiry have proved formative in shaping the investigation of serious and complex crime within modern day policing.”

He added: “On behalf of West Yorkshire Police, I apologise for the additional distress and anxiety caused to all relatives by the language, tone and terminology used by senior officers at the time in relation to Peter Sutcliffe’s victims. Such language and attitudes may have reflected wider societal attitudes of the day, but it was as wrong then as it is now.

“A huge number of officers worked to identify and bring Peter Sutcliffe to justice and it is a shame that their hard work was overshadowed by the language of senior officers used at the time, the effect of which is still felt today by surviving relatives. Thankfully those attitudes are consigned to history and our approach today is wholly victim focused, putting them at the centre of everything we do.

“The well-documented Byford and Sampson reviews fully explored many issues. However, the reports did not fully address the issue of how victims were portrayed and described, which impacted on families, friends and wider public perception. I offer this heartfelt apology today as the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police.”

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