Killer allowed out of jail

A couple whose wedding day was ripped apart when one relative stabbed another last night hit out after learning the killer is now being allowed out of prison.

A couple whose wedding day was ripped apart when one relative stabbed another last night hit out after learning the killer is now being allowed out of prison.

Andrew and Elaine Corbitt were celebrating their marriage with a reception in the village of Rock, near Alnwick, Northumberland, when a fight erupted.

The groom's nephew, Geoffrey Hearn, 30, picked up a kitchen knife and confronted the bride's brother, Jason Howard, 35, stabbing him to death.

Hearn, an ex-amateur boxer of Northmoor Road, Newcastle, was sentenced to five years for manslaughter.

But the couple say he has now been transferred to an open prison, and is taking part in release schemes just 19 months after the tragedy.

The special licence means he is already able to leave prison on specially arranged days.

Mr Corbitt, 46, who runs a farmhouse B&B with his wife, 39, said: "He is being let out of prison just 19 months after killing my wife's brother. It's unbelievable. He has taken another life, but this is all he gets. It's very hard to take."

The couple married at Rock Village Church before returning to their farmhouse home with guests for a reception party, in January 2005.

Newcastle Crown Court was told that, at around 1am an argument flared over the volume of the music.

Last night Mr Corbitt said he feels justice has not been done.

"Elaine was very close to her brother. She still finds it impossible to talk about what happened.

"Now we get a call from probation saying he has been moved into an open prison and is allowed out for the day. We're told soon he can be allowed out for weekends.

"We were never happy with the sentence, but this is incredible."

He also questioned whether the prisons crisis has led to inmates being transferred to open prisons sooner.

The Prison Service last night refused to talk about individual cases, but said anyone who had served more than a quarter of their fixed sentence would be eligible.

If classed as Category C or D, they could also apply for a facility licence, which could see them taking part in release schemes such as training and community work.

Mr Corbitt added: "He's allowed out, to know where we are, but we've been told we can't be told when he's out or where he is because of his human rights. The balance is wrong.."

A Prison Service spokeswoman said no inmates would be moved earlier than appropriate, but admitted it had become priority to transfer to open prisons if suitable.

"It's a detailed risk assessment process that uses complicated algorithms. We wouldn't be allowed to move them before we could. But moving prisoners appropriately to Category C and D prisons has become a priority."

She added inmates are assessed before being granted a facility licence.

"The applications go through a significant risk-assessment process," she said.

Hearn's mother, Helen Wallace, last night said she did not wish to comment.


Andrew and Elaine Corbitt

Bride held stabbed brother in her arms as he bled to death

Andrew and Elaine Corbitt yesterday said their lives will remain forever blighted by the killing at their wedding-day reception party.

Instead of happy memories, Mr Corbitt said, every wedding anniversary takes them back to a night of bloodshed at their home in Rock, Northumberland.

The couple had married at Rock Village Church on January 8, 2005, before taking a number of guests to their farmhouse for a nighttime reception.

But, Newcastle Crown Court, was told that an argument broke out over the volume of the music after 1am. It saw Geoffrey Hearn, the groom's nephew, pick up a knife and confront Jason Howard, the bride's brother. The two clashed, and Mr Howard died.

Hearn, who was cleared of murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, told the court he picked up a knife to scare off Mr Howard and protect his girlfriend.

He insisted he had never intended to kill, but accidentally caused the fatal injury when he rounded a corner and collided with Mr Howard, stabbing him in the arm. His version of events was later accepted by the judge.

The court heard how Mr Howard, of Milton Keynes, bled to death from a severed artery. His sister held him in her arms as he lay bleeding on the kitchen floor.

The family have already hit out after Hearn's prison transfers led to his grandmother, Joan Corbitt, 70, also of Rock, quitting her post as a volunteer at HMP Acklington.

He was moved there to be closer to home last November, but Mrs Corbitt said she could not face him.


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