Bishop banned from visiting jailed football fan
An English bishop was yesterday prevented from carrying out the traditional Christian act of prisoner visitation, to a Liverpool football fan who is serving a prison sentence in Bulgaria for attempting to murder a barman last July.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, planned to see Michael Shields, 19, yesterday, before an appeal next month against his conviction. But the supreme court in Sofia banned the visit just as the bishop was preparing to depart.
He said: "I find it hard to believe that the judge could deny Michael a pastoral visit requested by his family. This will add to the widespread concern in Liverpool."
The 19-year-old Liverpool fan from Wavertree was jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of the attempted murder of barman Martin Georgiev.
He had travelled to the resort of Varna after watching his team win the European Champions League in Turkey.
The Right Reverend James Jones planned the visit to pray with him ahead of his appeal hearing, due next month.
He said a reason for the ban had not been given.
Shields claims he was in bed when a paving slab was dropped on Mr Georgiev's head last May.
Graham Sankey, 20, admitted the attack but his confession was not accepted by Bulgarian courts.
Bishop Jones said: "I find it hard to believe that the judge could deny Michael a pastoral visit requested by his family.
"This will add to the widespread concern in Liverpool and my hope was that my visit would have reassured Michael of our care for him.
"He and his family continue to be in our prayers."
Shields' father, also called Michael, said the family were "very disappointed" with the decision.
Prisoner visitation is an act carried out by Christians down the centuries, and often causes controversy.
Recently, Christians have caused a stir by seeking to visit detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Pope John Paul II also visited the Turkish gunman who shot him.