It’s been widely reported that Jack Straw has turned down parole for Ronald Biggs.

For the parole board to recommend his release may be humane in the individual case, but it would not be right in the broader public interest to release him: I agree with the decision Jack Straw has taken. As he’s rightly said, Biggs would have been free long ago, and could walk into any pub in Margate or anywhere else, had he not escaped from prison in 1965. The freedom he wants now is the liberty he took between then and 2001 – from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair, from Bobby Moore to David Beckham and from the Beatles to Robbie Williams – when he preferred the cold lager of Brazil. He stole three decades from the public, and he still owes us plenty. He may never pay his debt in full, but the one thing he can do to make up for his crime is to serve every day possible of his outstanding sentence – and I think he should do so. That will seem harsh to some, but today’s armed robbers need to know that justice is remorseless in circumstances like these. That’s why Biggs should not taste the real ale of English freedom.

The ability and indeed duty of elected politicians to make decisions on that broader basis seems to me the best argument for their having the power Jack Straw has exercised; there is a real danger that cutting that power out of the system would result in the public’s interest in the matter being ignored.

2009-07-03T09:15:00+00:00Tags: , , |