One of Britain’s most notorious criminals, Ronnie Biggs, has been refused parole by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who says the 79-year-old train robber is “wholly unrepentant”.

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Straw said Biggs had “outrageously courted the media” during more than three decades on the run after escaping from prison in 1965, where he was serving a 30-year sentence for his role in the 1963 Great Train Robbery.

“Mr Biggs chose to serve only one year of a 30-year sentence before he took the personal decision to commit another offence and escape from prison, avoiding capture by travelling abroad for 35 years whilst outrageously courting the media,” Straw said.

“Had he complied with his sentence, he would have been a free man many years ago.”

Biggs’ lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano told the BBC the decision was “perverse” and “obscene”, and said his client was in an extremely frail state.

He said: “He is in hospital, he has a nasal gastric feed, he has had three strokes, he can’t walk, he can’t talk… all the other (Great Train Robbers) served a third of their sentences. Why should Mr Biggs be different?”

The Great Train Robbery saw a 15-strong gang hold up a London-to-Glasgow mail train, making off with STG2.6 million ($A5.31 million).

The gang attacked the train driver with an iron bar. The driver never returned to work and died seven years later without making a full recovery.

Biggs played a minor role in the hold-up and was jailed for 30 years in 1964, but escaped by scaling the wall of the prison and jumping onto the roof of a furniture van.

He eventually fled to Brazil, where he was often pictured in British newspapers enjoying a party, but handed himself over to the British authorities in 2001 and was sent back to jail.

No parole for ‘Great Train Robber’ Biggs