In May of this year, one of Britain’s most wanted criminals, a man called Ronald Biggs, returned to Britain after thirty years of exile in Brazil. Now aged seventy-one, he was arrested on arrival and taken straight to prison. Biggs was one of the men behind the “Great Train Robbery” of 1963, whose daring astonished the country and netted the robbers about $60 million in today’s money. Biggs was caught and imprisoned, but he managed to escape to Brazil, a country with which Britain does not have an extradition treaty. He decided to return after so long a period of exile because he was ill and impoverished (he had lived for years by granting interviews to British publications). He appeared to have calculated that the medical treatment in a British prison would be superior to that given to an indigent person of foreign extraction in Brazil.

On the day of his arrival back in Britain, a newspaper know ...