Page last updated at 00:19 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Shields waits on pardon judgement

Michael Shields
The 22-year-old was moved to a British prison in 2006

Jailed Liverpool fan Michael Shields is set to learn whether Jack Straw has the power to release him from prison.

The 22-year-old is serving a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of a barman in Bulgaria in 2005, but has always maintained his innocence.

High Court judges are to rule whether the Justice Secretary can "grant a pardon to repatriated prisoners wrongly convicted in a foreign jurisdiction".

Mr Straw has insisted he does not have the power to free Shields.

However, Bulgarian authorities say a decision on the Liverpool fan's future rests with the UK government.

Shields's lawyers applied for a judicial review of Mr Straw's position and judges reserved their judgement at a hearing in London on 4 December.

'Miscarriage of justice'

If the ruling goes in favour of Shields, the Justice Secretary will be asked to make a decision one way or the other.

The court heard that the power to pardon is used when a person is deemed to be "morally and technically innocent".

In court, Mr Straw's legal team warned that if a pardon were granted the move would be seen as criticism of the foreign court that had found Shields guilty.

Shields was convicted after a paving slab was dropped on barman Martin Georgiev's head in Varna, Bulgaria, following Liverpool's Champions League final victory in Istanbul in May 2005.

He is currently serving the remainder of his sentence, which was cut to 10 years on appeal in Bulgaria, at HMP Haverigg in Cumbria.

Shields has always maintained his innocence, and Fair Trials Abroad described his conviction as a "blatant miscarriage of justice".

Another fan - not an associate of Shields - signed a statement admitting he was the man responsible, but later retracted it.

The court's judgement is expected to be delivered on Wednesday afternoon.

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