Widow’s pain as husband’s killers moved to in open prison 11 years after murder

Garry Newlove’s widow has revealed her anguish as two of his killers will be released next year.

Jordan Cunliffe, 26, and Stephen Sorton, 28, are now in an open prison after being jailed in 2007.

Garry’s widow has told how she felt helpless at the parole hearing of two thugs who killed her husband and has demanded more of a say for victims of crime – saying: “It’s just so painful.”

And Baroness Helen Newlove backed the Mirror’s call for a bill of rights to address the imbalance when it comes to criminals and those they target.

She insisted a victims law would give them legal rights to be heard, to be informed and to challenge decisions.

Baroness Newlove spoke out after Cunliffe and Sorton were moved to an open prison in ­preparation for their potential release from jail next year – 12 years after they battered the 47-year-old to death after he tried to stop them vandalising her car.

She said: “Release is a painful part of the victim journey. You know it must happen but it does not make it any easier. It’s just so painful.

“The victims law would give a voice to victims within our criminal justice system. It will make people respect what that victim’s journey is about and not leave them on the edge.

“Only then will they be at the centre of our criminal justice system. At the moment they are nowhere near.” Baroness Newlove is leading the bid to bring in the new law along with Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts and Harry Fletcher of Victims’ Rights Campaign.

It is supported by the three major political parties but the Government has so far failed to introduce the legislation, despite promising to do so in their last election manifesto.

Baroness Newlove told how she last year attended the parole hearings of Cunliffe and Sorton, who along with Adam Swellings, killed dad-of-three Garry during a row outside his home in Warrington, Cheshire, in 2007.

But she said she was given no chance to ask the yobs anything about their drunken attack when she came face to face with them.

She added: “I read both victim’s ­statements out. Both times they [the offenders] were in the hearing room and you have to wait until they come in and then you go in.

“If you go on your own with your MoJ representative for support, you can feel intimidated it’s a scary environment when you’ve got no rights and had to apply for permission to attend.

“The hearing is cathartic. You get to look at the Parole Board panel and ­hopefully the offender in the eye. But it is frustrating. You get nothing in return other than a polite ­acknowledgement and thank you for coming.

“You can only read your submitted statement. You cannot deviate from the script. There are no questions. For me it was frustrating.”

The Mirror is calling for the new law to be introduced to prevent a repeat of the failings highlighted by the John Worboys scandal, when the black cab rapist’s victims were kept in the dark about his planned release after 10 years.

Just one was informed about his parole hearing and they only learned he was due to be freed on the news.

The decision caused outrage and led to a legal challenge by two of his victims that was upheld by the High Court. A new law would force authorities to ensure victims of similar crimes are warned about such hearings.

It would also give victims the right to legal aid to challenge decisions. Worboys’ victims were denied public money to challenge his release and had to rely on handouts. Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove said: “It’s a dreadful case but what it raised for the public was how Worboys’ victims had to crowdfund for a judicial review.

“We cannot continue with a system where the offender gets legal aid whilst victims have to crowdfund.”

Baroness Newlove also wants the introduction of advocates to help guide victims through the legal system at a time when they are still suffering trauma.

She added: “If you do go to a court and the trial finishes it’s the loneliest place to be.

This advocate would be there to refer you to the relevant support services and to help you make that difficult transition.”

Swellings was 19, Sorton 17 and Cunliffe 16 when they got life for murder in 2008. Swellings had been released from custody for an assault hours before the attack, which was witnessed by Garry’s daughters Zoe, Danielle and Amy, then 18, 15 and 12.

The thugs were given terms of 17, 15 and 12 years respectively. Sorton’s was reduced by two years on appeal. Swellings will not be eligible for parole until 2024.

A Parole Board spokeswoman said: “In 2017 the Board ­recommended Stephen Sorton and Jordan Cunliffe were suitable for a move to open conditions.”

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