Howard rebuffed by Belfast judge in IRA jail review

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Another judicial rebuff was handed down to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, yesterday when a "whole life" prison tariff on two IRA bombers was overruled by a High Court judge in Belfast.

Mr Justice Kerr said Mr Howard had wrongly declined to explain why he had departed from the view of the trial judge and the former Home Secretary, David Waddington, when increasing the minimum term to be served by Paul Kavanagh and Thomas Quigley, who were convicted at the Old Bailey in 1985 of three murders arising out of two London bombings.

The trial judge, Mr Justice McCowan, fixed the tariff at 35 years, later increased to 50 by Mr Waddington, but the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, had said he would not release them at all. Quashing Mr Howard's decision to revise the tariff up to whole life, Mr Justice Kerr said: "I consider that the Home Secretary was obliged to explain why he was minded to depart from the judicial view expressed by Mr Justice McCowan and to increase the tariff beyond that which had been fixed by the former home secretary."