Legal boost for jailed Liverpool fan

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The Independent Online

Jailed football fan Michael Shields moved one step closer to freedom today by winning the right to a judicial review.

Shields, 22, was jailed for 15 years in Bulgaria in 2005 after a barman was attacked following Liverpool FC's European Cup victory.



Despite another man confessing to the attack, Shields was locked up and his sentence was reduced to 10 years on appeal.



He was transferred to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, but his supporters have never halted their campaign to prove his innocence.



The case was held up because of months of legal toing and froing between the Government and the Bulgarian authorities - who say the UK has the power to free Shields.



But the Government disagrees, meaning Shields would have to serve the remainder of his sentence where he is currently jailed at HMP Haverigg in Cumbria.



But today a judge at London's High Court decided Shields' case should be heard in full by three judges.



Labour Euro-MP Arlene McCarthy said: "Today's ruling by the High Court judge is a positive step forward in the campaign to free Michael Shields.



"It reaffirms what I have always been led to believe by Brussels-based legal experts that the receiving country, the UK, does have the power under the Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners to release Michael.



"Where there has been such a blatant case of a miscarriage of justice and where the Bulgarian justice system has failed to allow Michael to prove his innocence, I see no reason why we need their permission or agreement to release him.



"I hope that the further ruling will confirm this and that Michael will be freed, reunited with his family and allowed to get on with his life."



Liverpool councillor Joe Anderson said Shields was "OK but very angry with those who committed the crime forcing him to stay in prison".



He said: "He is angry with the UK Government for not doing more and I support that.



"This has been a miscarriage of justice and many people believe that view.



"Michael is determined to prove his innocence and that keeps him going."



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