Parents have shown dignity, says Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair believes the parents of murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have shown "tremendous dignity" throughout their ordeal, his official spokesman said tonight.

Mr Blair's spokesman said: "Of course, he is aware of all the issues that have been raised by this case.

"This has clearly been a terrible case. The Prime Minister's thoughts are with the families of Holly and Jessica who have shown tremendous dignity over the last 16 months.

"As David Blunkett has already announced, there will be an independent inquiry to look at the issues which have given rise to concern."

Blunkett: sense of shock

Asked for his reaction, Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "I feel just like any other parent would do - a sense of horror and of shock that this should have happened.

"I, like the parents, am glad that this is now over, that the judgment has been made and that Huntley has been found guilty and both retribution and some repair of the damage to the families can begin.

"Our hearts go out to them.

"All we can do is bring them comfort by ensuring that this kind of event is minimised."

He decline to comment specifically on the tariff that Huntley should receive.

'Lessons to be learned'

But he said: "As from tomorrow, anyone committing such a crime would under the Act we have just passed receive a life meaning life sentence."

Under the previous system he had set 50 year minimum terms in similar cases, he said.

He added that there were "clearly lessons to be learned" from the Huntley case, and said the inquiry would look at the issues concerning the former caretaker going back to 1995 concerning the High Court hearing to decide Huntley's tariff, he added: "I hope that can be done as speedily as possible."

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