Law firm plans appeal over early prison release ruling

Lawyers acting for John Norton, who last week took the Home Office to the High Court over its decision to end the early release of prisoners under the 1967 Criminal Justice Act, are still waiting for the court to give its reasons for finding against him.

The Divisional Court rejected Norton's application for judicial review last Thursday. But Sheffield-based firm John Howell & Co, which is representing him, has announced it will appeal regardless of the Divisional Court's reasons.

Partner Danny Simpson said: “It is simply unfair. A week ago John was serving his sentence and knew what his release date was. Then he was told he would be released early, and other prisoners on his wing were already being released. Now, all of a sudden, the Home Office says his release is suspended.”

He added: “What John is complaining about is the capricious way he has been treated. No one has a problem if they know what the rules are.”

Simpson believes the Home Office has unintentionally masterminded “the biggest jailbreak in British history”.

But not all lawyers believe Home Secretary Michael Howard is in the wrong. Liverpool defence lawyer Rex Makin said: “I truly believe that over the last two years Howard has earned the title of 'Prince of Darkness', but on this occasion, much as it pains me to say so, he has made the right decision.”