Justice Secretary blocks bid to move sadistic killer to open prison

Justice Secretary blocks bid to move sadistic killer to open prison
Steven Ling, a farm worker, was jailed for life in 1998 after stabbing his victim 60 times during sex.

A bid to move a sadistic killer who stabbed a woman 60 times during sex to an open prison has been blocked by the Justice Secretary.

Dominic Raab rejected the request to transfer Steven Ling to a lower security jail, overruling a recommendation made by the Parole Board last month.

It is the first intervention of its kind made by Mr Raab after he promised to personally review requests to move high-risk offenders to open jails.

Ling, a farm worker, was jailed for life in December 1998 after admitting murdering 29-year-old Joanne Tulip in Stamfordham, Northumberland, on Christmas Day a year earlier. A charge of rape was left on file.

He was initially ordered to serve at least 20 years behind bars but in 2009 a High Court judge cut the minimum term to 18.

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman confirmed Mr Raab had rejected Ling’s move “in the interest of public protection”.

Joanne Tulip was stabbed 60 times (PA)
Joanne Tulip was stabbed 60 times (PA)

A similar request was blocked by MoJ officials in 2020 when Ling’s case last came before the Parole Board.

During sentencing at Newcastle Crown Court, Mr Justice Potts told Ling: “You inflicted appalling injuries on (Ms Tulip) while you were having sexual relations with her. I’m also satisfied that there was in your motivation an aspiration of sadism.”

He added: “You will never be released so long as it is thought you constitute a danger to women.”

Joanne’s mother Doreen Soulsby, who reportedly called on Mr Raab to keep Ling in a closed prison and won support of several MPs, told The Telegraph Friday’s news is “such a relief”.

She said: “All the effort has been really worthwhile. I have been campaigning and everyone that I have spoken to cannot believe on offender like him would be released into an open prison.”

Now aged 47, this was Ling’s fourth review by the Parole Board.

Around the time of the murder, he spent “a lot of time thinking about sex and feeling entitled to it” as well as “having an interest in unhealthy types of sex and sexual violence”, Parole Board papers said.

He also had “problematic attitudes towards women” and held “traditional ideas about the role of men”.

He was “socially isolated”, had anger problems and used “sex and alcohol as a way of coping”.

The document said the panel assessing his case “took account of Mr Ling’s consistent good behaviour in prison over many years and his good working relationships with professional staff”, noting that he had participated in programmes to address his behaviour.

It added: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the very full evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was not satisfied that Mr Ling was suitable for release.

However, on assessing the benefits and risks of Mr Ling transferring to open conditions, the panel recommended that he should be progressed in this way.”

But it was for the Secretary of State to decide whether to accept this recommendation, it added.

Ling will be eligible for another parole review in about two years’ time.

Mr Raab decided to step in and oversee the prison transfer process after sex offender Paul Robson went on the run from an open prison in Lincolnshire, sparking a major manhunt.

The work was previously entirely delegated to justice officials.

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Mr Raab said: “I think what people are fed up of hearing is that we own the system but we don’t take responsibility for it because it’s delegated to officials.

“I think people expect their ministers and politicians to be held accountable for it – which means we need to change the system accordingly.

“But it will only be the top slice of high risk because the volume of cases would inundate us.”