The Justice Secretary Jack Straw yesterday granted Biggs release from prison on compassionate grounds and, as of today, he is no longer a prisoner. The announcement marks a major U-turn by Mr Straw, coming just a month after he refused Biggs parole.
In a statement Mr Straw said that the two decisions "involved different considerations". He added: "I made the decision to refuse parole principally because Mr Biggs had shown no remorse for his crimes nor respect for the punishments given to him and because the Parole Board found his propensity to breach trust a very significant factor."
What We Said
Ever anxious to still any doubts about him going soft on crime, Straw recently grabbed the headlines by overturning a Parole Board recommendation to release Ronnie Biggs, the last of the Great Train Robbers. The usual reason for such a decision is that the person concerned is likely to be a danger to the public by committing further serious offences. But Biggs is said to be frail and sick, unable to walk or talk or feed himself, which is done through a tube into his stomach. So Straw had to come up with some other justification – that Biggs is “wholly unrepentant” and “outrageously courted the media” about his escape to Brazil.
Well, if we are looking for repentance we might have expected Straw to regret his ready acceptance of the government's lying excuse for attacking Iraq, with all the consequent destruction and killing, for in January 2003 he wrongly asserted that the Blix report “contains the clearest possible evidence that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction...Several thousand rockets are unaccounted for”. Does he regret his decision to allow General Pinochet to return to Argentina, although he was wanted elsewhere for trial for thousands of people being tortured and murdered, on the grounds that the dictator was too sick to stand trial? What does he think now about his rejection of an asylum application from an Iraqi man with the advice that “we have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process and that you should have no concern if you haven't done anything wrong” ? And will Alistair Campbell have to flee to Brazil now that Straw has ruled that “outrageously courting the media” constitutes a reason for him to lock you away?