The murderer of a former Rutland Times journalist could be granted an early chance of parole after volunteering for work in prison to reduce his risk to society, a judge said.
Rickell Cory Patterson, 24, stabbed Timothy Smith, originally from Darlington, to death after he accidentally stepped into his path at a bus stop in Nottingham in May 2007.
The 40-year-old reporter had been into the city for an evening visit to a library when he accidentally stepped in front of Patterson’s bicycle, sparking a violent attack.
At the time, Mr Smith’s mother, June, and brother, Chris, spoke of how his death had left them serving life sentences of their own.
Patterson, of St Ann’s, Nottingham, was convicted of murder at the city’s crown court in December 2007 and jailed for at least 14 years.
The minimum term - or tariff - was later cut to 12 years by appeal judges and he could currently be paroled as early as May 2019.
But although a senior judge reviewing the term again in London today refused a further reduction, he said one could be on the way if he continues progressing behind bars.
Mr Justice Wilkie said Patterson was moved between six institutions in seven months after he was locked up, but always received good reports.
Although his progress could not yet be said to be “exceptional”, he appeared to be making a genuine effort to reduce his risk, he continued.
In particular, he had referred himself to a special unit at Dovegate Prison, in Staffordshire, where offenders receive intensive help to reduce the risk they pose to others, he said.
“There is no doubt that Rickell Patterson has made very real progress and the fact that it is consistent with the way he conducted himself whilst remanded in custody pending sentence does not in any way lessen the impressive nature of that progress,” he continued.
“I note, however, that each of the authors of the tariff assessment reports and the author of the legal submissions accept that there remains work to be done which is focused on his offending behaviour.
“In my judgement, it may be that, if he were to be transferred to HMP Dovegate so that he can access and successfully complete the programmes available in that therapeutic community, this would be evidence of exceptional progress such as to justify the reduction of the present tariff.
“However, until that position has been reached, in my judgment, it cannot yet be said that his progress is of such an exceptional nature that it would warrant a reduction in his tariff.
“Although I am unable presently to recommend any reduction in his tariff, there is identified a clear way forward which, if pursued, may result in a different conclusion if a further application were then to be made for a review of his tariff.”
As it stands, Patterson will be eligible to apply for release in May 2019, as time he spent before he was convicted will count towards his minimum term.