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#341143 - 7th Aug 2009 1:32pm Train robber Biggs awaits release

Train robber Biggs awaits release

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs is preparing for his formal release from prison after being granted freedom on compassionate grounds.

Biggs is severely ill with pneumonia and Justice Secretary Jack Straw approved his release on Thursday after being told he is unlikely to recover.

The Ministry of Justice is expected to sign-off on his licence conditions later, granting his formal release.

The 79-year-old - in a Norfolk hospital - is said to be "over the moon".

His son Michael told the BBC he was "absolutely delighted" Mr Straw had reversed his decision on his father's parole, which was refused last month.

Speaking on the Today programme, he said: "My father has served a very long time in prison.

"In comparison to sentences which are being handed out nowadays it's pathetic that anyone would expect my father to serve 30 years for taking part in a train robbery.

"The reasons why my father didn't get parole is, he didn't show any repentance. My father did show remorse all through the years for having committed a crime.

"However, he has never regretted living the life he did, because had he done that he would never have had me as a son."

He said earlier that his father was unable to walk, read, write or speak and could not eat or drink.

Last month, Mr Straw said the 79-year-old should not be granted parole as he remained "wholly unrepentant" about his involvement in the 1963 robbery of a mail train.

But on Thursday Mr Straw said the medical evidence clearly showed "that Mr Biggs is very ill and that his condition has deteriorated recently, culminating in his readmission to hospital".

He added: "His condition is not expected to improve. It is for that reason that I am granting Mr Biggs compassionate release on medical grounds."

The inmate of Norwich Prison, who was serving a 30-year sentence, was taken to hospital in June suffering from a chest infection and was readmitted on Tuesday.

His son added: "All I can say is we are extremely happy at the moment.

"I'm just very hopeful that my father can have another few months ahead of him in his life."

The decision means Biggs will spend his 80th birthday on Saturday as a free man, although his condition means he will be unable to celebrate his release.

The three Prison Service staff who remained watching him will be withdrawn later, once the licence for his release is finalised.

If his condition improves Biggs will be transferred to a nursing home in Barnet, north London, near his son's home.

Biggs, originally from Lambeth, south London, was a member of a 15-strong gang which attacked the Glasgow to London mail train at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, in August 1963, and made off with £2.6m in used banknotes.

The train's driver, Jack Mills, suffered head injuries during the robbery.

Biggs was given a 30-year sentence, but after 15 months he escaped from Wandsworth prison, in south-west London, by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van.

He was on the run for more than 30 years, living in Australia and Brazil, before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001 in search of medical treatment.

He was sent to Belmarsh high-security prison on his return before being moved to a specialist medical unit at Norwich prison.


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#341160 - 7th Aug 2009 2:36pm Re: Train robber Biggs awaits release [Re: ]

The details of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs' freedom have been revealed exclusively

According to the terms of his licence, he must not leave the country, start work without permission or break the law.

The seriously ill 79-year-old was released from his prison sentence "to die", according to his lawyer.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw made the decision on compassionate grounds because of the severity of his medical condition.

Despite this, the released robber's licence runs out in 10 years - meaning if he survives another decade he could be sent back to jail.

His son Michael Biggs hopes his father will live to see his 80th birthday on Saturday.

Read Jack Straw's letter to Biggs

Read the details of Biggs' licence


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