A veteran MP has slammed the decsion to release a notorious serial rapist who was given 13 life sentences as a "perversion of justice." As revealed in the Manchester Evening News, Andrew Barlow, formerly Andrew Longmire, has already spent time out of prison as he prepares for full release next month.
Once branded Britain's most wanted man, he was given multiple life sentences in October 1988 after being convicted of 11 rapes, three attempted rapes, indecent assault, and using a firearm to resist arrest. His tariff was fixed at 20 years. In the decades that followed he was linked to more offending, as previously unsolved cases were cracked.
Between 1981 and 1988 he went on two separate campaigns of terror, raping women in five different counties. The first was between 1981 and 1984 and the second between August 1987 and his arrest in January 1988, when he opened fire with a shotgun as two police officers detained him.
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News of his impending release has triggered a furious response from the public and politicians. Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, described the decison by the Parole Board as "a perversion of justice".
Barlow was dubbed the Coronation Street rapist as his victims were attacked in their own terraced homes, in the north of England - the majority living in Greater Manchester. Two of the attacks took place in the street.
He would spend days carrying out reconnaissance on his victims' homes to work out domestic routines, so he knew at what time husbands and partners would leave for work so he could attack women alone. He preyed upon teenagers and young mothers.
Mr Stringer has campaigned in the case of Suzanne Capper, from Moston, who was tortured and murdered by a gang in 1992. He said: "I spent time campaigning against the killers of Suzanne Capper getting parole. When some of them were paroled I campaigned on behalf of her mother to get the area into which they could go restricted. During that time I became concerned that the Parole Board did not know what they were doing.
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"Recently the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee of which I am a member had the Parole Board before us. I am not convinced that they can assess risk accurately. I don't believe their psychologists and psychiatrists can assess risk in an objective way. The whole system is pseudo scientific. I think it is driven by finance - to get prisoners out of prison, and undermines the whole justice system.
"I am old enough to remember the abolition of the death penalty. One of the conditions of that was that a life sentence would mean life. Any sensible person would think that he (Barlow) would be a risk. When you look at the number and nature of the offences he has committed this decision by the Parole Board to release him is a perversion of justice."
Last year the black-cab driver John Worboys lost his appeal against the two additional life sentences he was given in 2019 when more victims of the serial rapist came forward. The 63-year-old was jailed indefinitely in 2009 for public protection with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 offences involving attacks on 12 women, the earliest in 2000.
A 2018 decision to release Worboys was reversed by the Parole Board after a public outcry and prompted other victims to report attacks. He was subsequently sentenced to two additional life sentences for attacks on four more women, with a minimum six-year term. Mr Stringer said: "If you look at the Warboys case the Parole Board did not look at the details of the case."
Commenting on Barlow's release, Conservative Bury Councillor, Russell Bernstein, a member of the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel, said: "I am astonished that such a serial, ruthless and premeditated criminal is being allowed back into the community. I am very interested to understand better what the background was to this criminal being returned to closed conditions earlier this year.
"I call on the Parole Board in the public interest to make this clearer as such reasons I believe are fundamental in the public assessing the risks associated in this matter."
The public commenting on the Manchester Evening News' Facebook page were united in their opposition to Barlow's release. "What an absolute disgrace. What message is this sending out?
"I wouldn't hold my breath on him not reoffending, I wouldn't be surprised if he started to murder as well. Well done to the criminal justice system on this huge slap in the face to the victims," said one person.
Another person posted: "I wonder what the parole board will say when he commits another very serious offence. I think his photo should be plastered everywhere, so poor women at least know who to look out for."
"He will be on the strictest licence conditions when he is released but even so it is not enough to keep tabs on his whereabouts all of the time. This is an extremely worrying to release him back into society. He hasn’t committed a one off isolated offence he has a multitude of horrific attacks to his name. I am quite certain he will be waiting in baited breath to do it again. Prison won’t be a deterrent he’s done so much time already," said one reader.
Barlow's final two convictions were for offences committed in 1981 and 1982. In the first, a woman was raped in front of her three-year-old child. In the second a 15-year-old girl was raped at knifepoint. They were solved thanks to advances in DNA technology and Barlow admitted them both, but said he could not remember either attack. Barlow, who lived in Bolton and Oldham, was a Category A prisoner until this was downgraded to B in 2010.
The Parole Board has now confirmed his imminent release - but a summary of the reasons why he is being granted his freedom after 34 years in custody reveals he has already had a taste of freedom.
The decision to release him was made on November 30 - the eighth time his case had been reviewed by the Parole Board since the expiry of his initial 20-year tariff.
A Parole Board Decision Summary says: "In 2020, a panel of the Parole Board considered his case and recommended transfer to open conditions. This recommendation was accepted by the Secretary of State and Mr Barlow was transferred to open conditions in January 2021.
"Following that move, he had successfully undertaken periods of temporary release where he was escorted by a prison officer.The panel heard how well he was progressing in open conditions. In June 2022, Mr Barlow was moved back to closed conditions. After hearing from witnesses and Mr Barlow, the panel concluded that the evidence did not support the reasons for the transfer back to closed prison.
"The panel examined the release plan provided by Mr Barlow’s probation officer and weighed its proposals against assessed risks. The plan included a requirement to reside in designated accommodation as well as strict limitations on Mr Barlow’s contacts, movements and activities. The panel concluded this plan was robust enough to manage Mr Barlow in the community at this stage."
The panel also considered evidence from a prison service psychologist. A second psychologist commissioned on behalf of Mr Barlow recommended his release. The panel also considered a statement from a victim which conveyed the impact of Barlow’s crimes and the consequences of his offending.
It says his behaviour while in custody has been "good" for many years. He has obtained educational and vocational qualifications. He has completed accredited programmes to address sex offending. In 2002 he commenced treatment at the Fens Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder Unit at Whitemoor Prison. He has also spent considerable time in a regime to help people recognise and deal with their complex problems.