A man who murdered black teenager Anthony Walker in a barbaric racist attack is to be released from prison on parole.
Michael Barton, the brother of former Premier League footballer Joey Barton, was 17 when he ambushed Walker, 18, in a Huyton park in 2005.
Walker was walking with his girlfriend Louise and cousin Marcus to a bus stop when Barton and his cousin, Paul Taylor, then 20, chased them into a park.
Louise and Marcus managed to escape, but Walker’s life ended when Taylor hit the boy in the head with an ice pick, causing brain death.
Judge Justice Leveson said at the time that the pair were guilty of “racist thuggery of a type poisonous to any civilized society”.
Taylor was ordered to serve 23 years and eight months in prison.
Officials at the time described Barton as withdrawn, violent and living a life fueled by drugs and alcohol, according to Parole Board documents.
He showed “misguided loyalty” to like-minded people and displayed “racist attitudes”.
Barton’s original sentence was reduced by eight months to 17 years in 2016 for turning to a charity fundraiser behind bars. Judges noted his “remarkable transformation”.
Almost two decades since the horrific attack, a now 34-year-old Barton could soon be released from prison.
Last year he was moved to an open prison, which is one with less security and supervision.
The Parole Board, a body which assesses the potential risk of releasing prisoners, said yesterday that the panel was “satisfied that Mr Barton was suitable for release”.
The panel said: “Having considered the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Barton was suitable for release.”
Panelists heard during parole hearings how Barton had begun attending victim awareness and substance abuse courses.
His license conditions include living at a specific address, a curfew and strict supervision and monitoring.
Who he can see and what he can do will also be limited, including observing an exclusion zone to avoid contact with victims.
The Ministry of Justice has 21 days to review the parole board’s recommendation, it is understood.
Walker’s mother, Gee Walker, founded a charity in her son’s name to combat anti-black attitudes.
In February, a spokesperson for the Anthony Walker Foundation said: “We are aware of the Parole Board’s impending decision regarding Michael Barton, who murdered Anthony in 2005.
“Every anniversary, birthday, family gathering and special occasion evokes a sense of infinite loss, which will never go away.
“Anthony was a wonderful son, who loved his family, friends and community. He loved his sports and was an avid basketball player.
“Before his untimely death, Anthony wanted to study law at university and we know he would have had a positive impact on society.”