A Government report into how a convicted murderer from Yorkshire was able to kill again in similar circumstances just 18 months after being released from jail on licence is being kept secret to protect the criminal’s “personal data”, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
A Ministry of Justice review was ordered into the release of Ian Birley after he was convicted of the murder of Wombwell property developer and grandfather John Gogarty in 2015, who was stabbed 69 times in his own home as Birley and his girlfriend Helen Nichols robbed the 65-year-old to pay off a drug debt.
Birley had been released from jail just 18 months earlier after being sentenced to life in 1996 for the murder of 69-year-old Maurice Hoyle, who he had also killed and attacked in his Barnsley home.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the existence of a report into the circumstances of Birley’s release but has refused to release it to The Yorkshire Post under Freedom of Information laws on the grounds it contains “personal data”. The report is understood to be highly critical of the circumstances of Birley’s release.
But the Ministry of Justice response said: “We believe releasing the requested information into the public domain would be unlawful. Individuals have a clear and strong expectation that their personal data will be held in confidence and not disclosed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.”
After Birley was convicted for the second murder in December 2015 and told he would never be released from prison again, the Ministry of Justice, which sponsors the Parole Board and oversees the Probation Service, announced a review of the circumstances of Birley’s release back into the community to “make sure lessons are learned”.
Mr Gogarty’s daughter Nicola had told Sheffield Crown Court that the shattering impact of her father’s murder in July 2015 had been made even worse by the circumstances of Birley’s past offending and release back into society.
She said at the time: “I am heartbroken forever more to know the violent death my father suffered at the hands of Ian Birley.
“Added to that pain is the knowledge that Ian Birley has already been convicted of the murder of an old man in his own home and should never have been back on the streets free to do so again and free to destroy many more lives for a second time.
“My four-year-old and two-year-old ask me most days when is Grandad John coming down from the stars because they miss him and want to go and see him.”
Earlier this year, the family of Mr Gogarty won the right for an inquest to be held into whether there were failings relating to Birley’s release after raising concerns with the Probation Service in 2016 about the “significant similarities” between the killings of Mr Hoyle and their father.
The Yorkshire Post has requested an internal review of the decision to keep the report secret on the grounds that he can have no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to this matter and that there is a clear public interest in releasing the findings.