Lancashire

Jane Clough's family in court demo over 'freed killer'

The family of a nurse stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend have protested outside court demanding to know why he was "freed to kill".

Ex-ambulance worker Jonathan Vass, 30, was jailed for life on Thursday for murdering Jane Clough, 26, outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 25 July.

Preston Crown Court heard Vass, who must serve at least 30 years, killed while on bail awaiting a rape trial.

The Office for Judicial Communications said the judge acted within the law.

Her parents and 20 supporters stood on the court steps with banners.

Rape remand

John and Penny Clough wore "Justice for Jane" T-shirts and badges, emblazoned with a smiling photo of their loved one, and holding aloft home-made banners.

One had a photo of Vass with the words: "I was freed on bail by Judge Simon Newell," followed by a photo of Ms Clough with the words: "And killed."

Image caption Jane Clough suffered multiple stab wounds in the attack outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Another banner read: "Reported rapes got no justice."

Ms Clough's family said she was doubly failed, first by Vass having been given bail and secondly by him not facing trial for rape.

A further banner referred to Judge Russell's comments at an earlier hearing where he said the rape charge "pales into insignificance" compared to the murder - "the most serious crime in the criminal calendar".

A banner read: "Insignificant rapes? I could turn in my grave."

Ms Clough first called police on November 29 2009 with Vass arrested the same day and locked up.

Charged with nine counts of rape, one of sexual assault and three counts of common assault he was remanded in custody at his first court appearance.

But 12 days after he was held, the 17-stone bouncer and bodybuilder appeared at Burnley Crown Court where his defence applied for bail.

Judge Newell, who was appointed to the Northern Circuit in July 2008 on the recommendation of then Lord Chancellor Jack Straw, decided to grant him bail and Vass was given his freedom to await trail for rape on condition he lived in Preston, did not contact Ms Clough and did not enter Burnley or Pendle

He broke all conditions and also tracked Ms Clough on the social media website Facebook.

Her family today packed the public gallery to hear Judge Russell pass sentence.

Family's anguish

He made no comment on his fellow judge's decision to grant bail, but explained to the family why he decided Vass should not be prosecuted for rape.

Image caption Vass pleaded guilty to murder on 7 October

The judge said that legally, ordering the charges to "lie on file" was not the same as "dropping the charges" although they amount to the same thing for the prospect of any prosecution.

Judge Russell added the fact of the rape allegations did not cast any doubt on Ms Clough's integrity in making them and he would take them into account when passing sentence.

"I know that this decision has resulted in distress and anguish," he explained.

"But I am satisfied that it was the correct decision in the overall public interest, which requires consideration of many factors, otherwise I would not have authorised it."

An attempt to contact Judge Newell has been made through the the Office for Judicial Communications but no comment has yet been made.

The Office for Judicial Communications said the judge in the rape case decided on bail "within the statutory framework provided by Parliament in the Bail Act 1976 (as amended)."

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