Inquiry call after arsonist serves 24 years
Supporters of a man about to be freed after serving 24 years in jail for arson are calling for an inquiry into the case.
David Blagdon from Oxfordshire was jailed in 1978 for setting fire to church curtains and pews, but is set to be freed on Friday, supporters have been told.
Campaigners claim his lengthy imprisonment is an injustice and blame officials for failing to properly assess the risk he poses.
They are demanding a review of the release of prisoners serving life sentences.
Supporters of Mr Blagdon, 51, from Wantage, said he is "very excited" about his release.
He was sentenced to life following his conviction for arson after setting fire to the curtains at the parish church in South Hinksey near Oxford.
The fire caused 1,200 of damage, to the curtains and church pews, but no-one was injured.
Supporters claim the fire was a reaction to the death of Mr Blagdon's stepfather the day before the arson attack.
"He's spent 24 years in prison for an offence which doesn't warrant a sentence as harsh as that," said his solicitor Anita Bromley.
"It was a cry for help, he should have gone to hospital and would have been released a lot sooner.
"He has remained in jail because he doesn't match the criteria used to assess the risk of prisoners for release.
"It is a miscarriage of justice, we want a review of how the Home Office carries out the risk assessment and the release of life prisoners."
But he was looking forward to life outside jail, she said.
"He's very excited, optimistic and enthusiastic about going," she said.
"I don't think he would have been so positive if it wasn't for all the support from people in Oxford.
"He is going to need a lot of support when he gets out, which he should've got 24 years ago."
A parole board hearing last week agreed his release, she said.
He is expected to be freed from Wayland Prison in Norfolk on Friday.
Steve Roads, who has co-ordinated a campaign for Mr Blagdon's release, said: "It's fantastic news.
"It's going to be a big shock for him when he does get out.
"But he's a survivor, and I'm hopeful that he'll be able to lead a normal life."