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On a typically grey wet day on the 19th April 1966, Chester Assizes (now Crown Court) became the place to be for those wanting to see one of the most infamous trials.  Ian Brady (27) and Myra Hindley (23) spent just under 3 weeks at their trial with the jury listening closely to the evidence.  This trial, despite its significance and multiple victims, hadn’t taken long to prepare and get to court. Brady was only arrested on the 7th October 1965 and only 6 months later was thrust before the media circus and under the careful scrutiny of Mr Justice Fenton-Atkinson.  Mr Justice Atkinson had practised on the Northern Circuit and became Queen’s Counsel just 13 years before presiding over this trial at the age of 60.  Just 2 years after the trial he became Lord Justice of Appeal and saw the rest of his distinguished career in the Court of Appeal.  He had previously sat in this court, hearing the unsuccessful appeal of James Hanratty in 1962 who was then executed by hanging at Bedford Prison on the 4th April 1962.  He also heard the appeals of The Great Train Robbers in 1962 so was no stranger to being in the spotlight.

The Attorney General, Mr Frederick Elwyn Jones led the prosecution – the first time an AG had prosecuted such a case personally. Unencumbered by the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act, which came 30 years later, the prosecution and police put together the Crown’s case and served the evidence. The defence didn’t need to worry about the Criminal Procedure Rules, applications regarding bad character under the Criminal Justice Act or whether they needed to serve a perfected defence case statement.  Mr Emlyn Hooson QC aged just 41 was the man for defending Ian Brady.  He had only been appointed Queen’s Counsel 6 years before this historic case at the age of 35.

Myra Hindley had not been arrested with Ian Brady when the police arrived and found them in the same address.  The fact she wasn’t arrested still amazes me, the police had discovered a body upstairs and only arrested Brady leaving Hindley at liberty for a further 4 days before being arrested, coincidentally the same day the death penalty was abolished.

Mr Godfrey Heilpern QC, a solicitor from Manchester led the defence for Myra Hindley.  He himself had seen the devastation murder causes with his sister-in-law, the manageress of a Salford dress shop, found murdered on the first day of the trial.  He was absent for the first day with Philip Curtis standing in for him. Curtis was no stranger to the case having spent 11 days dealing with the committal hearing before both were remanded to Cardiff Assizes for a trial in January 1966 – later changed to Chester in the April.

The pair were found guilty of murder and Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson, in the absence of any other sentence, gave them life sentences.  250 plus people had gathered outside Chester Castle at the end of the trial – it was something of an anti-climax.  The newly installed bullet proof glass at Chester Assizes had not been needed or tested. The mood outside the court was described by Pamela Hansford Johnson “When the Moors trial ended, we did feel a lack of catharsis: something violent should have happened to put an end to violence.  Throughout, we were missing the shadow of the rope”.

Chiltern Law has offices in Chester, we also have offices in Henley-on-Thames, Newbury and Maidstone.  We only represent private clients and don’t undertake any legally aided work.  We represent those charged with serious and complex crime to individuals charged with less serious offences. All clients receive the personal attention of Darren Rogers who is the the owner and founder of Chiltern Law with 20 years of experience.  If you require legal advice or representation please look at or email or call directly on 01244 722732.

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