Victims could soon be allowed to address Parole Board hearings for the first time after the brutal murder of Swansea teenager Ben Bellamy helped inspire plans to reform the system.
John Bellamy not only suffered the ordeal of the horrific death of his son Ben, but he has also faced the added trauma of not being kept informed of his killers going before the Parole Board with the possibility of release.
Ben had been walking home alone from a disco when he was lured to Swansea beach where he was punched, kicked and stamped upon by his killers on September 18, 2005.
He was stripped naked before his body was dumped in the sea to make it appear as if he had died while ‘skinny dipping’.
Joshua Thomas, of Swansea, who was 16 when he murdered Ben, is aiming to be released in 2022, after being sentenced to a minimum of 18 years.
Joel Taylor, then 18, also of Swansea, was sentenced to 22 years for the killing.
The Conservatives have now set out in their manifesto a pledge to reform the parole system to better serve victims. They also intend to open up parole hearings to the media.
Calls have been made to call any change in legislation Ben’s Law, as it would aim to ensure that no-one would suffer the fate of his family, who claim they have failed to be fully informed that Thomas was coming up before the Parole Board and instead found out through the media.
Mr Bellamy, 50, of Fforestfach , said he hoped the plans would finally give families an opportunity to have a platform for their feelings.
He said: “It would have meant a lot to have a voice to contest decisions made by the Parole Board.
“It’s like when a person is murdered they can no longer complain.
“It’s all about getting the killers looked after for a smooth release.
“I hope now that other victims’ families get treated better than we did.”
His inability to appeal the decision by the Parole Board has simply added to his fury and pain, especially in light of the fact that Thomas is due to be released on the same date as Ben’s murder, in three years’ time.
Carolyn Harris, Labour candidate for Swansea East, who has taken up the case and has been working behind the scenes for a ‘Ben’s Law’, said the proposed change was long overdue.
She said: “It is unacceptable that anyone should read in the press or on social media that the perpetrator of a crime that devastated their life has been released or is up for parole.
“Victims of crime need a system that addresses their needs and puts them first.
“I have believed for some time that the current system is falling short and failing victims and the case of Ben Bellamy and his family recently confirmed this.
“The announcement should mean that no other family has to face the pain Ben’s family did, reading the cases of those responsible for his death were being reviewed.”
The people sent to jail last month:
Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said: “Victims of crime will often have been through horrific and harrowing experiences.
“They may have had their lives ripped apart because of physical, emotional or economic abuse.
“These plans will help to ensure that the system is working for them, not against them – and that they can always count on receiving the justice and support that they deserve.”
A third teenager charged following the attack on Ben Bellamy – Andrew Rafferty – who was then aged 18 and of Mount Pleasant – was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter in the case. However, Rafferty’s manslaughter conviction was later quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Judges decided he should instead serve seven years in prison for robbery, as Ben was said to have been forced to hand over his cash card and PIN number so Rafferty could withdraw cash, leaving the brutal attack to continue.
He went on to be released but was thrown back behind bars in 2017 after being caught in possession of cocaine and crack in a bar in Stoke-on-Trent city centre.