Racist axe murder victim Anthony Walker's mother 'betrayed' by sentence cut call
The mother of a teenager murdered in a racially motivated axe attack has said her family feel "deeply betrayed" by a High Court judge's recommendation that the sentence of one of his killers be reduced.
The judge recommended one year off Michael Barton's 18-year tariff after hearing of his transformation from "racist thug" to a "sensible realistic young man" who had raised money for charity.
The tariff is the minimum term before Barton can be considered for release from prison. He was found guilty in November 2005 of the murder of "blameless young black man" Anthony Walker, 18, who was found with an ice axe in his head after being ambushed by Barton, then 17, and co-defendant Paul Taylor.
Condemning the outcome, Mr Walker's mother, college lecturer Gee Walker, said her family felt "deeply betrayed," and "disappointed".
She said: "We put our trust in the judges, in the law, and then they go and do this. It's just wrong. I will have to live with it, but what about the people who have not got a faith like me? Where does it leave them?
"This sends completely the wrong message to criminals. It tells them that if they pretend to be good they will win.
"I don't believe what he has done in prison is anything more than pretence. I believe he is playing a game and he sees that he is winning by doing that.
"This decision to cut his minimum sentence does not make any sense and it dishonours Anthony's memory.
"They promised me and my family that Barton would serve a minimum of 18 years. It is not fair to make a promise like that and then come back and say they have changed their mind.
"A promise is meant to be a promise and judges should not break a solemn promise that was made to us. We have to live this ordeal for the rest of lives. It is utterly wrong."
Barton, now 27, from Huyton, Merseyside, was sentenced on December 1 2005 to detention for a minimum term of 18 years. The trial judge Mr Justice Leveson said he was satisfied the crime was racially motivated.
Barton denied the killing at the time, but has since accepted his role in the offence. Taylor, then 20, who struck the fatal blow at McGoldrick Park in Huyton on July 29 2005, admitted the crime.
The trial judge described the attack as "racist thuggery of a type that is poisonous to any civilised society".
On Tuesday, Mr Justice Mitting - sitting in London - recommended Justice Secretary Michael Gove to reduce Barton's tariff by one year to 17 years, less four months spent on remand.
The judge said the progress made by Barton, whose brother is former Manchester City star Joey Barton, had been exceptional.
A blunt summary of a post sentence evaluation was that Barton, was "a racist thug". Although he denied holding racist views, the authors of a youth offending service report were rightly convinced that he held them, said the judge.
He had also fed his appetite for cannabis and other drugs by robbery, burglary and drug dealing as part of a gang - "violence was routinely deployed by him and other gang members".
But there had been a remarkable transformation of his outlook and conduct when he entered the adult prison system, and his offender supervisor Julie Hill had said she would not hesitate to urge consideration of a tariff reduction.
The judge said Barton now understood "the devastating and irreplaceable loss which he has caused his victim's family". This demonstrated the many offender courses he had undertaken had worked.
The risk of him re-offending had been reduced from high to low and he had undertaken cookery, cleaning and business development courses. He planned to set up in business in the catering industry if, and when, released.
For many years he enjoyed enhanced status in the prison system and was a trusted mentor.
Ms Hill, who took over as his offender supervisor in May 2014, had stated "she would not hesitate" to urge a consideration of a reduction in his tariff.
The judge ruled: "His transformation from a racist thug into the sensible realistic young man described by Ms Hill satisfies the high threshold for a reduction in the minimum term imposed by a sentencing judge on a young offender."
Members of the Walker family, including Anthony's sister Donna, were in court to hear the decision and fear it could pave the way for Barton to make an application for early parole.