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The High Court has dismissed a challenge by the “British Airways Killer” to his continued detention.

The claimant, Robert Brown, is serving 26 years in prison following his conviction in 2011 for the manslaughter of his wife and concealment of her body. He was acquitted of murder after successfully pleading diminished responsibility by reason of an adjustment disorder brought on by a number of stresses.

The claimant was due to be released on licence in November 2023 at the halfway point in his sentence. However, the Secretary of State for Justice exercised a new power to detain prisoners who are considered to be dangerous past halfway and instead to refer them to the Parole Board. The claimant sought judicial review of that decision.

The claimant’s grounds of challenge included that the statutory threshold for the power was not met, unjustified departure from the Secretary of State’s own published policy, and bias arising from an appearance that ministers and senior civil servants had been too close to a campaign by the victim’s family and friends to keep the claimant in prison.

Following an expedited 2 day hearing, Ritchie J dismissed the claim on all grounds. He held that, applying the statutory test, the Secretary of State had reasonable grounds to believe that the claimant would, if released, pose a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission of murder or other serious offences. Further, the Secretary of State had shown good reason for departing from aspects of his published policy. There was no evidence of bias or that the Secretary of State took undue pressure from the campaign into account when taking the decision.

The case has attracted considerable media attention, including the recent ITV documentary “The British Airways Killer”.

The judgment can be accessed here.

Iain Steele acted for the Secretary of State for Justice.

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