Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 18:26 UK

Biggs' release appeal turned down

Ronnie Biggs pictured several years ago
Biggs was part of a 15-strong gang that robbed a mail train in 1963

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs' plea to be freed on health grounds has been rejected by the home secretary.

Charles Clarke told the 76-year-old his request to be released on grounds of persistent ill-health was rejected as his condition is not deemed terminal.

Biggs, who has suffered from strokes, heart attacks and MRSA, fled jail after being sentenced to a 30-year term in 1963 for his part in the £2.6m robbery.

He was detained on his return in 2001 to Britain - after 40 years on the run.

Assisted feeding

Since his return to the UK, Biggs has been held in the high security Belmarsh prison in south-east London.

His condition has deteriorated but not enough to meet the criteria for early release, the home secretary said.

Never mind the Great Train Robbery, this is the great prison robbery.
Giovanni di Stefano
Legal adviser to Biggs

However, the National Offender Management Service said Mr Clarke did acknowledge Biggs' "frailty and the slow deterioration" of his condition.

According to medical reports prepared for the appeal, Biggs often needs a tube to assist in feeding and has speech difficulties.

However, doctors said he could walk short distances and is being adequately cared for within the prison system.

Giovanni di Stefano, legal adviser to Biggs, said Mr Clarke had failed to grasp the extent of his client's health problems.

He added: "Never mind the Great Train Robbery, this is the great prison robbery. Taxpayers' money will continue to be spent on keeping a terribly ill old man in prison.

"It is disgraceful, a great blow to the family of Mr Biggs, and I hope we can explore the possibility of seeking a judicial review of the decision."



SEE ALSO
Profile: Ronnie Biggs
06 Aug 09 |  UK
Train robber's son 'to get passport'
09 Jul 02 |  England
Train robber Biggs gets married
10 Jul 02 |  England

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