Biggs release under spotlight

Lorna MarshReports claiming that great train robber Ronnie Biggs could be free within days have been dismissed as 'unfounded speculation' by justice officials.The Times said justice secretary Jack Straw would sign the 79-year-old's parole papers, allowing him to be released into the care of a nursing home.Lorna Marsh

Great train robber Ronnie Biggs has been denied his bid for freedom after justice secretary Jack Straw refused to grant him parole.

The news comes as his solicitor claimed Biggs, who was transferred from Norwich prison to hospital after breaking his hip in a fall on Sunday, had 'taken a turn for the worse'.

Mr Straw rejected a recommendation by the Parole Board which backed the release of Biggs, 79.

His solicitor Giovanni di Stefano said Biggs's son Michael was on his way to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Earlier this month, a parole board recommended Biggs be released, despite acknowledging that he had no regrets about what he had done.

It said he could be released because the risks he posed of reoffending were 'manageable', but warned that he could attempt to exploit his celebrity status.

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The panel said: 'In terms of his attitudes and risk areas, there is little evidence beyond his increased age to suggest that, if he were able to return to his old criminal associates and lifestyle, the risk of involvement in further violent offending has reduced significantly.'

But Mr Straw said Biggs was 'wholly unrepentant' about his actions and that the British legal system 'deserves more respect than this'.

He said it was 'unacceptable'' that Biggs had chosen not to obey the law and tried to avoid the consequences of his decision.

Mr Straw said Biggs would have been a free man 'many years ago' if he had complied with the sentence given to him.

He said: 'I have informed Mr Ronald Biggs today of my decision regarding his parole.

'Mr Biggs chose to serve only one year of a 30-year sentence before he took the personal decision to commit another offence and escape from prison, avoiding capture by travelling abroad for 35 years whilst outrageously courting the media.

'Biggs chose not to obey the law and respect the punishments given to him - the legal system in this country.

'It was Mr Biggs's own choice to offend and he now appears to want to avoid the consequences of his decision. I do not think this is acceptable.

'Mr Biggs is wholly unrepentant and the Parole Board found his propensity to breach trust a very significant factor. He has not undertaken risk-related work and does not regret his offending.'

Biggs, 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 off with �2.6m in used banknotes.

He 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 Spain, Australia and Brazil, before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001.