Killer of Sunderland policeman wins legal battle of prison’s failure to deal with his violent nature

Sgt Bill Forth
Sgt Bill Forth
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A PRISONER serving a life sentence after being convicted of the drug-fuelled murder of a Sunderland policeman has won a High Court fight with the Ministry of Justice.

Paul Weddle was jailed in 1994 for the murder of Sergeant Bill Forth.

Bill Forth

Bill Forth

High on a cocktail of drink and drugs, he beat the Wearside officer with a fence post before repeatedly stabbing him.

A judge at Teesside Crown Court jailed Weddle, then 26, for life and ordered he must serve a minimum of 25 years.

But yesterday at the High Court, Weddle claimed Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was failing to provide him with the “means to demonstrate reduced risk,” so that he could progress to a lower security category.

Lawyers representing Mr Grayling disputed the claim, but a High Court judge ruled in Weddle’s favour.

Paul Weddle

Paul Weddle

Weddle said Mr Grayling was failing to provide courses in prison through which he could demonstrate “reduced risk”.

Mr Justice Cranston agreed. He said there were no “rehabilitative courses” available to enable Weddle to address his “use of extreme violence”.

And he said Mr Grayling had failed to provide “other means” by which Weddle could demonstrate a reduced risk.

“The Secretary of State requires him to address his use of extreme violent offending but at the same time is effectively withholding the means by which he can do that,” said the judge.

“The claimant succeeds in his claim. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will address the matter with the necessary expedition.”

Sgt Forth, a father-of-two from Fence Houses, had been attending a domestic incident in Gateshead at 11pm on March 20, 1993.

While separated from colleague Pc Bill Hay, Sgt Forth was stabbed eight times with a sheath knife, including one wound to the heart. Weddle also beat the officer with a piece of fence.

A judge imposed a life sentence with a 25-year minimum term.

Weddle is due to become eligible for parole in 2018, the High Court heard.

“At the time of the murder he was under the influence of alcohol and other substances, including Temazepan,” said Mr Justice Cranston.

“On his account he has never been able to recall either the murder itself or the event immediately surrounding it.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said later: “We are studying the terms of the judgment and have indicated our intention to seek leave to appeal.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, added: “Prison is the right place for serious and violent offenders, but it must be a place of rehabilitation not just a warehouse.

“Far too often in the Catch 22 of our overcrowded jails, people are expected to address their offending behaviour and reduce risk without any means to do so.”

Sgt’s Forth’s mother, Noreen, continued to live in Fence Houses, where there is a memorial park to her son, until her death in 2010 at the age of 90.

Philip English, who was jointly convicted of the murder of Sgt Forth, had his conviction quashed in July 1997.

Just 15 years old when he was detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure under the “joint enterprise” rule, English had been involved on the assault on Sgt Forth but was under arrest and 100 yards away when the officer was fatally stabbed by Weddle.

Sgt Forth’s widow, Gill Merrin, publicly criticised the decision, saying that at the time her late husband had been “let down by the British justice system”.