Maxine Carr challenges rule change to block early release
By Adam Fresco
DAVID BLUNKETT was facing a High Court challenge last night from the woman at the centre of the Soham murder case after he rushed to change rules that would have allowed her out of prison this week.
The Home Secretary announced that he was taking special powers to override prison governors in exceptional cases after Maxine Carr applied for early release wearing an electronic tag. Home Office ministers argued that they needed extra powers to keep high-profile prisoners in jail to maintain “public confidence in the system”.
But critics immediately hit back at Mr Blunkett, claiming that the move was driven by political concerns that the prisoner tagging system was falling into disrepute.
Carr was sentenced to 3? years in December for perverting the course of justice and could have been freed from jail this month under a home detention curfew scheme.
But Mr Blunkett has changed the rules, ruling that Carr, who is not deemed a danger to the public or likely to reoffend, is an exceptional case.
The scheme, which she has already applied for, would have seen her electronically tagged and allowed to serve the remaining four months of her sentence at home, not being allowed out during certain hours — usually between 7pm and 7am — but she will now have to serve another four months in prison.
Before the change in regulations prisoners were only barred from being released under the scheme if they had committed “certain serious offences” such as murder, manslaughter, racially aggravated offences and crimes involving the planting of explosives. Those eligible had to have been jailed for between twelve months and four years for non-violent and nonsexual offences.
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation union, said the change set a dangerous precedent. “It would allow the press to determine whether a high-profile prisoner is released. Therefore, I hope it’s used sparingly.”
Carr, who stood trial with Ian Huntley, her former boyfriend, who was jailed for life at the Old Bailey for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, was told of the changes yesterday and is considering calling for a judicial review if she feels the Home Office has acted unlawfully.
Roy James, her solicitor, said: “We are trying to get some information together. We need to know whether the Home Office has acted lawfully and if they haven’t the position will be challenged at the High Court because we will argue that it applies retrospectively for her.”