'Goldfinger' Launches Court Battle

Started by Newshound, July 19, 2004, 19:24:19

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'Goldfinger' Launches Court Battle Against Open Prison Rebuff

One of the UK's most notorious criminals, timeshare fraudster John "Goldfinger" Palmer, today launched a High Court battle for the right to go to an open prison.

Palmer was in court as his lawyers condemned the decision to revoke his move to Springhill Prison, Bucks, as "irrational and unfair".

Springhill focuses on preparing and training prisoners for release.

Palmer, who is currently at Highdown in Sutton, Surrey, was due to be moved to Springhill last year.

Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, was told he had now paid a £2.2 million compensation order.

Home Secretary David Blunkett is opposing his application for judicial review on the grounds that he could not be trusted and remains an escape risk.

Palmer, 54, of Bath, was jailed for eight years at the Old Bailey in May 2001 for conspiracy to defraud in one of the biggest timeshare frauds to be uncovered.

A £33 million confiscation order was imposed on him, but it was overturned by the appeal court on the basis there had been crucial flaws in the procedure followed.

Later the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, sitting with four other appeal court judges, ruled that the court had misunderstood and misapplied the law and Palmer's case had been wrongly decided.

Lord Woolf said he hoped the decision would put an end to the "string of appeals" against conviction orders sparked by the Palmer case.

But Palmer was still allowed to keep the money as the original decision to quash his confiscation order could not be overturned.

Palmer defended himself throughout his fraud trial and claimed he was a legitimate businessman, not involved in anything fraudulent.

He maintained that he had been persecuted by the police after a jury acquitted him of handling gold from the 1983 £26 million Brink's-Mat bullion robbery at Heathrow airport.

The case earned him notoriety and the nickname Goldfinger.

He moved to Tenerife to set up his timeshare business in the 1980s. Palmer's lover Christine Ketley, of Brentwood, Essex, was also convicted of conspiracy to defraud.

Today his QC Alan Newman said Palmer had initially been held in category B, then C and was reduced to category D in November last year.

In accordance with standard practice, arrangements were made for him to be allocated to an open prison, but then he was told the move had been blocked and he was being re-categorised to C.

The QC argued there was no proper basis for the decision to prevent Palmer's re-allocation to open conditions. The decision was taken unfairly and flawed by procedural irregularity.

Jenni Richards, appearing for the Home Secretary, is expected to argue that the judgment of the prison authorities was that Palmer could not be trusted in open conditions and did represent a serious risk of escape.

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