Politicians have reacted with dismay to a Court of Appeal decision to grant sadistic child killer Anwar Rosser a full hearing in his bid to overturn his whole-life prison sentence.
The 33-year-old former soldier was ordered to spend the rest of his days behind bars by a High Court judge for the savage murder of four-year-old twin Riley Turner who was asleep in his bed at his Keighley home.
Rosser’s legal team lodged an appeal against the sentence in March and an Appeal Court judge has now ruled that it should progress to a full court hearing which is likely to set a legal precedent about the rights of British courts to impose whole-life tariffs following a European Court ruling.
Riley was strangled and stabbed repeatedly while he slept at his home in Harewood Road, Bracken Bank, in January 2013.
Rosser pleaded guilty to the murder, and was branded "an exceptionally dangerous man" who could kill another child, by the sentencing judge, Mr Justice Coulson, sitting at Bradford Crown Court in February this year.
The judge said the murder was a gross breach of trust of Riley's family, and he told Rosser he "must go to prison for life”.
The sentence meant Rosser became only the 54th prisoner in the UK to be on a whole-life tariff.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that whole-life tariffs must be reviewed, but a Court of Appeal ruling in February enabled judges to continue imposing the sentences, with reviews only applicable where “exceptional circumstances” could be demonstrated.
MP Philip Davies, who strongly supported the whole-life tariff given to Rosser, described the Appeal Court decision to allow Rosser a full hearing as “very disappointing”.
“Virtually every right-minded person in the country would agree that this person should never be let out of prison,” said the Conservative MP, whose Shipley constituency includes Cullingworth and Denholme.
“I am a firm believer that a life sentence should mean life, and in a case with circumstances as vile as this one, there should not even be a debate.”
Councillor Jan Smithies (Lab, Keighley West) said Rosser deserved his whole-life sentence.
“He has a legal right to appeal, but it makes it extremely difficult for the family to move on from the tragedy and carry on with their lives,” she said.
“The judge obviously thought he was worthy of that sentence, and this appeal could cause worry in the community as to how much trust they can place in the sentencing process.”
Mohammed Ayub, senior partner at Chambers Solicitors of Bradford, which is representing Rosser, said he was not able to comment on the specific details of the appeal, but said the ruling raised a “very important” issue regarding the legality of whole-life tariffs.
“Clearly this outcome could lead to whole-life tariffs being re-examined,” he said. “If this ruling leads to further debate on the issue, then that can only be a good thing.
“This case definitely has the potential to set a precedent for the future.”
Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins did not want to comment ahead of the hearing which will take place on a date to be set.