Leading article: Vindictive justice

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A 79-year-old man languishes behind bars, where he has been for the past eight years. His health is shot and he cannot walk unaided. His crime was committed in 1963 and he is no longer a threat to anyone. And last week, the Parole Board recommended his early release.

Normally, those would be considered sufficient grounds for granting parole but not, it seems, in the case of Ronnie Biggs. Yesterday, the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, announced that he would be rejecting the Parole Board's recommendation to free the ailing Great Train Robber. According to Mr Straw: "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."

No doubt it does. But the vindictive treatment of a frail old man whose greatest offence, whatever else Mr Straw says, was to cock a snook at the British police for several decades hardly reflects well on our legal system either.

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