Campaigners urge Downing Street to move to release 'Britain's most violent prisoner' Charles Bronson

A petition calling for the release of Britain's most notorious prisoner has amassed 10,000 signatures

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The Independent Online

Campaigners are calling for the release of the man dubbed "Britain's most violent prisoner" after handing a petition to Downing Street.

Supporters of Charles Bronson, HMP's most notorious inmate, gathered 10,000 signatures urging the Prime Minister to free him after four decades in prison.

Born Michael Gordon Peterson, the 61-year-old was jailed for seven years in 1974 for armed robbery at a Post Office,  but has been locked up for much of the time since then following a string of violent incidents, including assault, hostage-taking and damage.

Since first entering prison 39 years ago, he has spent just four months out of custody.

During his incarceration he has been moved 120 times, held one-man rooftop protests and spends 23 hours per day in solitary confinement.

The former bare-knuckle boxer changed his name to Charles Bronson after being advised to do so by his boxing promoter.

Lorraine Etherington, secretary of the Charlie Bronson Appeal Fund, said the petition aimed to bring Bronson's case back into the public eye.

She said: "He has served enough time - there are murderers and rapists who get out after serving less time. He hasn't killed anyone.

"Despite completing a violence reduction programme last year he has been denied the opportunity to progress and is still kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.

"He is not a danger to the public - I would argue that he never has been a danger to the public.

"Out of pure frustration he has tried to get attention by taking hostages and causing trouble, but he knows today that is not the way forward.

"Despite having a lot of detractors, he has gained an awful lot of support for people who realise that beyond the name there is an injustice here."

His story was told in the critically-acclaimed 2008 film Bronson, which saw actor Tom Hardy in his first big role before becoming a Hollywood star.

Tom Hardy in 'Bronson'


During an interview with Metro  in 2009, Hardy said meeting Bronson defied his expectations. He said although he knew many had been on the receiving end of "some terrible, terrible attacks" from Bronson, he on the other had "only experienced a very witty and articulate sensitive, angry at times, but very articulate man, which was completely juxtaposed against what I expected.”

Bronson was jailed for life in 1999 for taking a prison art teacher hostage for two days.

A judge ordered him to serve a minimum of four years but he has regularly been refused parole and is kept in an isolation cell at HMP Wakefield known as the Hannibal cage.

The petition handed in at Downing Street included a hand-written plea to David Cameron in which Bronson asks to "live what's left of my life and not be buried in the prison system".

It also referred to his artistic talents and drawings of his that have been sold for hundreds of pounds.

His supporters are currently planning to launch a third appeal against his life sentence next year, and will put his case to the European Court of Human Rights if that fails.

Tanya Bassett, of the National Association of Probation Officers, told Sky News that the petition to the Prime Minister had little chance of succeeding.

She said: "It's highly unlikely he or the Justice Secretary would intervene. There is a thorough, in-depth process for the release of prisoners and decisions are made by the Parole Board."

Bronson was last denied parole in 2009.