Anthony Walker killer Michael Barton to be released from prison
A man who murdered black teenager Anthony Walker is to be released from jail after a recommendation by the Parole Board.
Michael Barton, the brother of former footballer Joey Barton, was 17 when he hurled racist abuse at 18-year-old Anthony Walker and then attacked him in a park in Huyton, Merseyside in July 2005.
Barton's 20-year-old cousin, Paul Taylor, was jailed for life after smashing an ice axe in the victim's head during the ambush.
At the time, sentencing judge Mr Justice Leveson said the pair were guilty of "racist thuggery of a type that is poisonous to any civilised society".
Barton at the time of his offending was someone who led an anti-social lifestyle, fuelled by drink and drugs, showing "misguided loyalty" to like-minded people and displaying "racist attitudes" as well as his willingness to use violence, according to Parole Board documents.
Now aged 34, Barton was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years before parole, reduced by one year after an appeal in the High Court in 2016, during which a "remarkable transformation" in his outlook and conduct was noted by judges.
According to evidence presented at parole hearings, Barton's initial behaviour behind bars had been poor but he had matured over the previous decade and had been taking part in courses on victim awareness and substance abuse.
He was moved to an open prison in February last year.
The Parole Board decision, released on Thursday, said the reviewing panel could direct release only if it was satisfied that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that Barton remained in prison.
The panel concluded: "After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Barton was suitable for release."
His licence conditions include living at a designated address, a curfew, enhanced supervision and monitoring, complying with limitations on contacts and activities and observing an exclusion zone to avoid contact with victims.
A statement from the Parole Board said: "Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
"A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
"Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.
"It is standard for the prisoner and witnesses to be questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority."
Anthony's mother, Gee Walker, founded a charity in her son's name to combat racism and has devoted her life to tackling prejudice.
The family are making no comment at this time.
It is understood the Ministry of Justice has 21 days to review the Parole Board recommendation on Barton's release.