Has everyone gone to the moon?

Thank God for Jack Straw. Where would we be without him, eh? I will sleep safer tonight knowing that he’s used his superhuman power as Minister for Justice (does the role come with a Stan Lee designed costume? Something in figure-hugging bright red spandex with a blue satin cape) and denied Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs parole. Thank fuck for that! We don’t want that mad twat roaming the streets, do we? Phew! And I don’t feel that I’m alone in resting easier due to Jack’s vigilance and care. I think the people of Britain will heave a sigh of relief knowing that dangerous bastard is still behind bars and not menacing us all with his geriatric viciousness. Jack summed up the heaving tide of outraged public opinion that still seethes against the train robber: ‘Biggs chose not to obey the law and respect the punishments given to him – the legal system in this country deserves more respect than this.’ Too right. Let’s have more of this.


Biggs, for anyone who has no idea of history or popular culture beyond the size of Jordan’s tits and how many number ones Take That have had, was part of a gang who robbed a Royal Mail train in the summer of 1963, while the Beatles were at number one with ‘She loves you’ and The Great Escape was playing in cinemas, getting away with £2.6 million (about £38 million in today’s money when adjusted for inflation, probably more). Biggsy’s crucial role in the operation was to throw the mail bags into the back of a van after proving to be too thick to operate the train once they had it stopped. This is the Night Mail, get ready to board her, fat with the cheque and the postal order, cash for the rich, cash for the poor, chuck out the bags and stand by the door. Heading for Ledburn, slap bang on time. Mess with the lights and she’ll stop for the crime. Away with the readies and head for the safe gaff, play some Monopoly with real notes for a laugh. Keep our heads low until the fuss passes – but we’ll all do some time ‘cos of our dabs and the grasses. He was arrested in 1963 and sentenced in 1964. Biggs escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965, went on the run through several countries and through several recordings with the Sex Pistols, before handing himself in back in 2001. Biggs is now 79 years old and has suffered a series of strokes whilst in prison. He’s served 10 years of his original 30 year sentence. Add on inflation and we’re talking about 140 years bird the geezer’s done.


Biggs has applied for parole on several occasions. All denied. This time the parole board had approved Biggs’ application for early release. Namby pamby liberal wets. Not like New New New Labour and their recently found vein of white working class values in the wake of last months council and Euro election debacle. When they lost ground to the BNP and Tories. Oh no, they’ve got their finger on the pulse now, after a mere twelve years in government. Local homes for local people. Kick dole spongers back into employment or cut their handouts. Keep octogenarian train robbers behind bars. No u-turn from rampant liberalism, just listening to the grassroots. Right on. And, let’s not forget, even the leftie-thinking parole board stated of blagger Biggs: ‘there was little evidence, apart from his increased age, to suggest he would not return to his old criminal lifestyle.’ And so Jack stepped in. Too right. I bet Biggs can’t wait to have a meet with some East End hard nuts and plan another big job. I can see it now, Biggs pulling armed capers with shootas, pausing mid-blag to rub Deep Heat into his arthritic knees and pop some glycerine under his tongue to ease his angina. Biggs pulling off daring jewellery heists like a modern day Thomas Crowne. Face contorted behind a ripped pair of 15 demier tights, sawn offs blazing. Screaming at the top of his voice through a blizzard of white fivers: ‘No bastard copper’s going to take me alive!’ And then being assisted into the getaway car by his home help. Come on, Ronnie, let’s get you back to the home for a nice cup of tea and some Madeira Cake. You can count your swag this afternoon when you’ve had a nap.


But no, we’re safe. Our Jack has overruled the parole board having seen through the villain’s decrepit façade. Dangerous, devious bastard that he is. That Jaguar Mark 2 will have to stop under wraps in a lock up down in Streatham a bit longer. Tuned and ready to knock off that Securicor van. Since 1966. A couple of pounds of jelly and a cosh in the glove box. Because Justice Jack has said: ‘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.’ The slag!


I fully agree with prisoners serving out the full term of their sentences. Everyone should do what they’re given by the court. No arguments. And if we’re not going to have a death penalty (for now) then life should mean life. No parole, no get out of jail card, no requisite period. And so, under these terms, Jack Straw is probably right to deny the octogenarian parole. But it doesn’t really work like that. No one serves their full sentence. Someone given five years will do less than three. And good behaviour doesn’t alter the decision to release early any more than general ambivalence does. They simply get let out. And so I have to ask myself the question, does Biggs really pose a more serious threat to society than the killers of James Bulger? Who would I rather have living next door to me, Ronnie Biggs or child-killer Robert Thompson? Who would you? But Thompson has been a free man since 2001 and is still only twenty-five years old, after serving eight years for torturing and murdering a two year old boy. So where is the parity there? Money or human life, which does the criminal justice system prize the highest? When courts are handing out twelve month sentences for manslaughter.


Biggs is an easy target. For Labour to get tough on crime. To be seen to be tough on crime. High profile, few rights, a shed load of potential sentence left to play with. But does the denial of Biggs’ parole really serve a purpose other than to let big Jack stretch his heroic muscles? And what of Bigg’s apparent unrepentance, as stated by Justice Jack and the parole board? Hmmm. I seem to recall Jonathan King showing little repentance when he was released early on parole after being found guilty of four indecent assaults on fourteen and fifteen year old boys, and two offences of buggery and attempted buggery on two boys aged fourteen. Nasty crimes.  Life destroying crimes. King gave a press conference outside Maidstone Prison on the day he was released, three years into his seven year sentence. Did King show regret at his offending during this press conference? Oh no, just a sec, he was saying he hadn’t done it, that’s right. ‘I’m totally, absolutely 100% innocent.’ So how’s that work then? What message is that to send to the victims? To other like minded dirty bastards? To send to the parole board? To send to the Justice Minister? Out after serving half his time without any remorse. So why him and not Biggs? And correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t remember Ronnie Biggs slipping his finger up anyone’s arse when he robbed the mail train.


It might be noted that Bruce Reynolds, the ‘brains’ behind the Great Train Robbery, was sentenced only to ten years, after having been on the run following the crime and enjoying considerably more of the proceeds than Biggs ever did. Reynolds has been a free man since 1979.



  1. technomist · July 2, 2009

    There are so many inconguities in the justice system. You have shown up several of them. Interestnig post.


  2. deleted user · July 15, 2009

    It’s the same old story, a floundering government decides to crack down on crime, to show how in tune with the public mood they are. What’s particularly baffling is the seemingly haphazard manner in which the rules are applied.
    This is the same criminal justice system, which thinks it is perfectly acceptable to release Dano Sonnex, just in time for him to go off and brutally murder two french students.
    What does the criminal justice system value most, money or human life? The answer is abundantly clear. Recently a convicted drug dealer was told he have to spend another TEN YEARS inside, if he defaulted on repayments for his confiscation order. Ten years? As much as I hope he rots in a cesspool of his own making, you don’t get that for murder.
    I am however, weary of depicting Biggs as some sort of benevolent old grandfather figure. His return to these shores was motivated by the fact that he was broke and needed to make use of the national health system, not by some belated desire to face the music. If he hadn’t escaped in 1965, he’d have served his sentence and been released long ago. Who knows he might even have been making a pretty penny in a one man show, like that other famous old reformed villain Mad Frankie Fraser, God bless him. I can see it now, “Biggsy, The Brazil Years”.


  3. GSmudger · July 17, 2009

    If Dano Sonnex had been a dark 60s icon whose mug-shot is as familiar as any Warhol image, then two people wouldn’t have been horribly murdered for no comprehensible reason. Myra Hindley deserved her fate but, unlike Sonnex, would have posed little danger to anyone had she been released to live out her life as an untouchable pariah. Flaky principles applied inconsistently don’t inspire confidence. Let’s face it, dangerous men are released every day in the sure and certain knowledge that they will blight and end more lives – unless they’re celebrities whose release could exceed a given number of column inches.


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