“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, August 07, 2009

Ronnie Biggs, Train Robber

Ronnie Biggs' release: family wait for official clearance

Relatives of Ronnie Biggs are waiting for a fax to confirm the Great Train Robber's release, after Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, allowed his freedom on "compassionate grounds".

Published: 9:26AM BST 07 Aug 2009 Telegraph

Biggs's son Michael said his father was sick and frail and freedom would make little "practical" difference, but a big "spiritual" difference to the family.
Mr Straw announced Biggs's release on "compassionate grounds" late on Thursday.

Michael Biggs said on Friday morning he was expecting his father to be formally released in the next few hours.
"We are expecting a fax from the Ministry of Justice which will be the formal release," he said.
"I will be sitting by the fax machine waiting for it.

"Then the three guards who are with my father at the hospital will leave and my father will be free for the first time since 1963."

Speaking outside the hospital, he added: "Practically, this doesn't make much change. My father will stay in hospital.

"But, spiritually, for the family, it will be a very big thing to have my father free.
"My father is extremely weak.

"It is touch and go, but, hopefully, he will be able to recover to some extent.

"He is in a very frail condition, but, hopefully, the real minister for justice will grant my father some extra time."
Biggs will turn 80 on Saturday - the 46th anniversary of the robbery.

His son said his father had expressed regret for the robbery, but did not regret "living the life he had".

The robber, from Lambeth, south London, was part of a 15-strong gang which attacked the Glasgow-London mail train in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, in 1963 and made off with £2.6 million.

Biggs was given a 30-year sentence but escaped after 15 months and went on the run for more than 30 years - living in Australia and Brazil.

He voluntarily returned to the UK in 2001 in search of medical treatment and was imprisoned again.
Michael Biggs said his father, who was unable to talk because of his illness and communicated with a spelling board, was "very happy" to be released.

"It took him a few minutes to use the spelling board but he is very happy and we are delighted that common sense has prevailed.

"Hopefully in the next few hours we will have the fax that makes it official.

"Hopefully my father will be able to make some sort of recovery but there are no immediate plans to transfer him. We are really just playing it by ear."

Michael Biggs said critics who felt that his father should stay under guard were wrong.

"My father has served enough time for the crime he committed," he said. "Let's put things into perspective."
He said he did not expect Biggs to be moved to a different room at the hospital.
"This is good news for the taxpayer," he added.

"They will no longer have to pay to have three prison guards with metal detectors and so on watching over my father."

Gang leader Bruce Reynolds told Sky News: "I'm overjoyed for Ronnie, and certainly overjoyed for Michael, who's worked tirelessly to get his father released from prison.

"I would like to point out that actually, although he's been given compassionate release, in actual fact it falls in line with the majority of time served by the rest of the team that committed the Great Train Robbery."

Ronnie Biggs

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