Murderer wins High Court case over transfer to open prison conditions

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A former soldier who murdered a mother-of-three and dismembered her body has won a High Court challenge over his transfer to open prison conditions.

Stephen Wynne, then aged 26, killed sex worker Chantel Taylor with a meat cleaver after picking her up near his home in Birkenhead, Merseyside, in March 2004.

He later admitted to murdering the 27-year-old and was jailed for life at Liverpool Crown Court in January 2006.

His minimum term of 21 years was later reduced to 18 years by the Court of Appeal, with this due to expire in July.

Ms Taylor’s remains have never been recovered, with Wynne only being caught when he tried to torch a mosque in Birkenhead in revenge for the July 7 2005 London bombings.

The Ministry of Justice refused to accept the recommendation in April 2022, leading to Wynne bringing a legal challenge over the department’s position.

In a ruling on Thursday, a senior judge ruled in Wynne’s favour, concluding that the Government had provided “no good reason” for rejecting the board’s recommendation.

Mrs Justice Steyn was told at a hearing in March that a Parole Board panel considering the offender’s case examined a nearly 1,000-page dossier and 16 reports over a period of more than 19 months.

“The consensus amongst the professional report writers, across every report, was that the risks presented by the claimant (Wynne) could be effectively managed in open conditions, that he did not present a risk of absconding, and that he should be transferred to open conditions,” the judge said in her ruling.

The panel also heard from Wynne and Ms Taylor’s mother, Jean Taylor, about the “deep distress and devastation” felt by her family over the murder.

It said risk factors in Wynne’s case included “substance misuse, alcohol and drugs”, “poor emotional and anger management”, “impulsivity” and “use of weapons and reactive violence”.

But it concluded that Wynne had been a “calm, resolved and compliant prisoner in the custodial estate”, that he was “unlikely to abscond”, had shown “insight and no longer ruminates with feelings of grievance” and that he had a “sustained period of good behaviour going back many years”.

High Court
Stephen Wynne won a High Court challenge over his transfer to open prison conditions (PA)

It said risks “cannot be effectively managed in open conditions”, referring to the “extreme violence” of the murder, Wynne’s “impulsivity” and “tendency to justify his actions”.

In his High Court challenge, Wynne’s lawyers argued the department’s position was “irrational”, with its reasoning being “conspicuously brief, superficial and unpersuasive”.

Mrs Justice Steyn concluded that it was “clear” that the department had “provided no good reason for rejecting the panel’s recommendation”.

“The lack of any good reason to depart from the panel’s recommendation is particularly striking given the panel’s depth of analysis, the clarity of their conclusion, and the consensus of opinion amongst the panoply of professional witnesses,” she said.

The judge said the decision to reject the panel’s recommendation was “outside the range of reasonable decisions” open to the Government.

Liverpool Crown Court was previously told that Wynne, who was thrown out of the Army for using cannabis, had been drinking and taking cocaine on the night of the killing.

As he walked home, he was approached by Ms Taylor who agreed to go to his house for sex.

While there they smoked heroin and Wynne revealed that he had an ounce of the drug which he had bought to sell.

When Ms Taylor tried to leave, he suspected she had stolen the ounce and demanded it back.

When she refused, he struck her in the neck with a meat cleaver.

She died almost instantly and Wynne used a saw to dismember the body before hiding it, the court heard.

Police officers seeking clues to the arson attack, which Wynne admitted to, later asked if he had any information about Ms Taylor’s disappearance and he replied: “I killed her.”

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