Charles Bronson Supporters Want Him Freed

Supporters of notorious prisoner Charles Bronson have handed-in a petition at 10 Downing Street to help free him after nearly 40 years in jail.

They gathered 10,000 signatures to urge the Prime Minister to release him, calling for parole for the man known as Britain's most violent prisoner.

Friend Lorraine Etherington said: "I would love for No 10 and the politicians in positions of power to look over his case, to be big enough to look beyond the name and reputation that precedes Charlie.

"We feel he's served enough time. There are murderers who've got out after serving less time than Charlie. He hasn't killed or raped anyone."

Ms Etherington, secretary of the Charlie Bronson Appeal Fund, said Bronson had behaved well in jail in recent years and had completed a violence reduction course with help from a psychologist.

Bronson, 61, was jailed for seven years for armed robbery in 1974, but has spent almost all the time since in prison after a series of violent episodes, including hostage-taking, assault and damage.

He was jailed for life in 1999 after taking hostage prison art teacher Phil Danielson and holding him for two days. He was ordered to serve a minimum of four years, but has regularly been refused parole.

The 2009 critically-acclaimed film Bronson made a star of the actor Tom Hardy, but did little for the violent reputation of its subject, or his chances of early release.

Ms Etherington said: "The flip side of the film was that it showed Charlie only up to the year he got the life sentence, not the reformed man he is today."

The petition includes a hand-written plea to David Cameron, in which Bronson asks to be allowed to "live what's left of my life and not be buried in the prison system".

He also highlights his artistic side with references to the drawings which sell for hundreds of pounds.

Bronson is currently held in the isolation unit at Wakefield jail in a cell known as the Hannibal cage.

Whenever he leaves the cell he is accompanied by four prison officers. It used to be five officers and that, say his supporters, is a sign of the progress he is making

Tanya Bassett, of the National Association of Probation Officers, said a petition to the Prime Minister had little chance of greeting Bronson freed early.

She said: "It's highly unlikely he or the Justice Secretary would intervene. There is a thorough, in-depth process for the release of prisoners and decisions are made by the Parole Board."

She said Bronson could eventually be released if he showed remorse for his crimes and completed various pre-release programmes to show he was no longer a risk to others.

Bronson supporters are current planning to launch a fourth appeal against his life sentence. If that fails they will put his case for release to the European Court of Human Rights.