Wigan woman's son to be released from his Garry Newlove murder sentence
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland challenged the board’s decision to allow 29-year-old Jordan Cunliffe to be released, following a suspected alcohol-related incident in his cell in December last year.
But Judge Michael Topolski QC, giving the decision of a reconsideration assessment panel which was published online on Friday, said there were “no compelling reasons to interfere with the decision”.
Cunliffe, who is now registered blind, is serving life for his part in the alcohol-fuelled killing of 47-year-old father-of-three Mr Newlove outside his Warrington home in 2007.
He was one of three teenagers found guilty of murder by a jury at Chester Crown Court in January 2008.
His Pemberton-born mum Janet Cunliffe has campaigned throughout his period of incarceration for him to be cleared and/or released, saying it was wrong for him to be convicted under "joint enterprise" laws when he played so small a role in the attack and could barely see what was happening during an incident that lasted just seconds.
This led to her helping to set up the pressure group Jengba (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) which aims to overthrow the whole concept of joint enterprise crimes. It has received high profile support, not least from the television writer Jimmy McGovern.
Aged 16 at the time of conviction, Cunliffe was sentenced to serve a minimum of 12 years, which expired on August 14 last year, Judge Topolski said.
The Parole Board considered Cunliffe’s release at a hearing last December, but the decision was reconsidered following a gathering of prisoners inside his cell days before Christmas.
Judge Topolski said it was believed that “some alcohol” had been consumed, adding: “They were noisy and there was some violence, but it was not suggested that the respondent (Cunliffe) was involved in that violence.”
Cunliffe had refused to take a breathalyser test and gave “different accounts of what happened”, Judge Topolski said.
As a result of the incident, Cunliffe was moved from an open prison into “closed conditions”.
His case was adjourned in April for six months, but following a hearing in September, the Parole Board decided he should be released.
Mr Buckland challenged the decision, claiming that because of the December incident “there was insufficient evidence that there had been a sufficient reduction in the respondent’s (Cunliffe’s) risk to justify release”.
But Judge Topolski said the Parole Board had “applied the statutory test” and found it was “no longer necessary for the protection of the public” for Cunliffe to remain in prison.
He said: “It is important to stress that that was the opinion of all the professional witnesses from whom the OHP (Parole Board) heard except for the prison psychologist whose opinion was that there should be a further period of consolidation before the respondent’s release.”
A Parole Board spokesman said: “The Parole Board has immense sympathy for the families of murder victims and recognises the pain and anguish they have endured.
“A senior judge of the board has rejected the application for reconsideration and found that the decision of the original panel was a rational one which was justified by the evidence they considered.”
The reconsideration panel, introduced by the Parole Board in 2019, allows the Secretary of State and prisoners to ask for decisions to be reviewed if they feel they are unfair or irrational.
The Parole Board spokesman was unable to give an exact date for Cunliffe’s release.
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