As revealed in today’s Yorkshire Post, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has blocked plans for convicted murderer Leroy Griffith to be moved to an ‘open’ prison as a precursor to periodic release on licence.
Griffith, who is originally from Barbados, stabbed 21-year-old Mark Webster to death outside a pub in Addingham, near Ilkley, on April 1, 2002, and was jailed for life in December that year.
He was told he must serve a minimum of 14 years, but a Parole Board hearing last month recommended his transfer to a Category D prison as a step towards his early release into the community, a ruling that has now been overturned in what has been described as a “rare” intervention by the Justice Secretary.
Mr Webster’s father Tim, who spoke against the transfer at the Parole Board hearing in August, said he was both delighted and relieved by Chris Grayling’s decision, but had lost none of his resolve to keep Griffith behind bars if he is considered for early release again.
It is thought he cannot apply for parole again until October next year.
Mr Webster, 57, said: “It doesn’t get rid of it, it puts it off, but every time we can put it off it keeps him in prison.
“I’ll keep putting the effort in as long as I have to.”
But the businessman said he felt frustrated by his limited access to information relating to the case since his son’s horrific murder more than a decade ago, and was sometimes confused by what he said appeared to be inconsistent messages from different parts of the system of justice.
“Even now, we know the Secretary of State has said he won’t ratify this [the prison transfer] but I don’t know why,” he said.
“I don’t know if he’ll do it again in 12 months, but the answer’s got to be yes.
“We are not really part of what’s going on and we get conflicting stories from Victim Support and the Home Office.
“Victim Support say one thing and the Home Office say another, so there needs to be more liaison between them.”
Mr Webster also said he feared other victims of serious crimes with less resolve than himself may find it harder to influence the process, and may be left out in the cold as a result.
“If the victims didn’t have somebody like me, who’s determined and quite bullish in my approach, they [the criminals] would be walking out of prison,” he said.
“If it was left to my ex-wife, Mark’s mum [Valerie], she wouldn’t know what to do.”
He added: “Victim Support tell us bits all the time but don’t go into detail because of his rights.
“It shouldn’t be down to you as a member of the Press or Kris Hopkins as an MP to fish out what’s going on, it should be open.”
Mr Webster read out a personal impact statement at Griffith’s Parole Board hearing at the end of August, which he admitted was difficult and that his voice faltered, although he would be prepared to do it again.
Mark Webster’s father spared no detail in reminding the hearing of what had happened to his son, saying: “In one insane moment he plunged a six-inch knife up to the hilt into Mark’s chest, severing his aorta and killing him instantly.
“That was Mark’s fate for trying to help a girl that he did not know.”
But even though he can steel himself to fight for justice for the son that was so cruelly taken away from him, the years have not dulled the pain of his loss.
“It’s never gone away, it’s always a constant,” he said.
“He would be 31, 32 now and you are forever thinking what would have been had he been here.
“I don’t think you ever forget about your son.”