Carr to leave prison in days after community sentence

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The Independent Online

Maxine Carr is due to walk free from prison within days after a judge decided yesterday to impose a community sentence for 20 fraud offences.

Ian Huntley's former fiancée, who became one of the most vilified women in Britain after being convicted of lying for the Soham killer, is expected to be freed by Friday. Details of her release from Foston Hall prison near Derby have been kept a closely guarded secret.

While there has been intense speculation as to whether she will move abroad or choose to change her identity, sources in the Probation Service indicated it was likely Carr, 27, will live in a council flat with her mother at an undisclosed location.

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman's former teaching assistant was given a 42-month sentence at the Old Bailey in December for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Huntley was convicted of murdering the two Soham ten-year-olds.

The final obstacle in her path to freedom was removed yesterday when Judge Richard Pollard imposed a three-year community rehabilitation order (CRO), instead of jail, after she admitted benefit fraud and lying in job applications at Nottingham Crown Court.

Carr - who has been in custody since she was arrested with Huntley two weeks after the Soham murders in August 2002 - said that her "one plea" was to be "left in peace to recreate in herself a new heart".

She is due for release on Monday but sources say she is likely to be moved from prison to a secret safe house by the end of the week.

Judge Pollard told Carr that he could have imposed a new sentence after she admitted 20 counts of deception over an eight-year period ending in 2002 - five on job applications, 12 for housing benefit, one for job seeker's allowance and two for income support.

But he concluded: "The public interest is best served by imposing on you a lengthy period of supervision."

Richard Latham QC, for the prosecution, told the court that Carr had claimed to have as many as 11 GCSEs and an English A-level when applying for jobs, including the post at St Andrew's primary school in Soham, Cambridgeshire. In reality, she had no academic qualifications and had not completed year 11 - formerly known as the fifth year - at her comprehensive school.

Mr Latham said Carr and Huntley had also fraudulently claimed £3,800 in housing benefit, income support and job seeker's allowance while living in Scunthorpe and Soham. They had pretended to be unattached, telling council officials that Huntley was either Carr's "landlord" or "cousin" in order to get more money when they were actually living as man and wife, said Mr Latham.

Michael Hubbard QC, for Carr, insisted his client had been "blackmailed" and intimidated into committing benefit fraud by Huntley.

The prosecution, he said, was "mischievous" and "had the hand of the Home Office all over it". He suggested that Carr was being prosecuted because sections of the press and Home Office officials thought she had got off lightly at the Soham trial. Had Carr been given the chance to have the deception offences taken into consideration at the end of the Soham trial "not a single day" would have been added to her sentence, he said.

The Crown Prosecution Service had given "not the slightest hint" that Carr would be prosecuted when the deception came to light, he added.

"What public interest can be served by prosecuting her? ...Or are those hands still at work who feel that her sentence was insufficient?" said the barrister.

"I offer no word of comfort for what she did. But the penalty has been paid."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "The Home Secretary plays no part in any Crown Prosecution Service decision over prosecutions. We reject completely the comments made by Maxine Carr's counsel in relation to the Home Secretary."

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said it had re-examined the file on the deception charges after the Soham trial and decided that it was in the public interest to prosecute.