A serial rapist who targeted young mothers is due to be released from jail despite an appeal from the Justice Secretary.
The Parole Board has rejected an application from Dominic Raab, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, to cancel the scheduled release of repeat offender Andrew Barlow.
But the decision may be challenged through an appeal to the High Court.
Barlow, 66, from Bolton in Lancashire, was jailed for life in 1988 with a minimum term of 20 years for 11 rapes, three attempted rapes and a range of other offences committed in the 1980s.
The convict, formerly called Andrew Longmire, was found guilty of two further rapes in 2010 and in 2017, both committed during the 1980s.
He targeted women in their late teens and young mothers mainly in the Manchester area, where he lived during the decade.
Barlow broke into victims’ homes, used weapons to threaten them – and in one case to cause injury – before assaulting them often while their children were in the same house.
After serving more than 34 years in jail, the Parole Board determined on December 12 2022 that Barlow could be released.
Mr Raab applied to the board for reconsideration on January 17, arguing that the panel which sanctioned Barlow’s release “failed to take proper account of the evidence regarding risk and in particular the expert psychology evidence”.
This was based on slightly differing reports from two psychologists about the safety of Barlow’s release – one declared him safe, while another said he should be “further tested in ‘open’ (jail)” before being confirmed for release.
The Parole Board rejected Mr Raab’s application, saying that “there has been no misdirection of law” and the panel had considered “all the evidence”.
It said members of the panel favoured the report of the former psychologist, and “it was entitled to reach that conclusion”.
The board added that Barlow’s “risk management plan with its extensive list of conditions” would be “sufficiently robust” to manage his return to the community.
“The whole panel would be aware of the correct test and the panel was chaired by a very experienced retired Judge who also has considerable experience of parole hearings and applying the statutory test,” it said.
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesperson said the case “emphasises the need for reform of the parole system” and “ministerial oversight of the most serious cases”.
Barlow’s attacks included the rape of a 26-year-old woman in her Sheffield home, while her three-year-old daughter hid terrified behind a settee.
He threatened the woman with a screwdriver before carrying out the attack.
In 2021, following the re-arrest of double murderer Colin Pitchfork, the Justice Secretary said he wanted to see a more cautious approach to future parole decisions.
Pitchfork, who raped and killed two teenage girls in the 1980s, was recalled to prison in November 2021 – two months after being released.