Missing prisoner figures described as 'worrying'


Staff reporter (Leader Live)

FIGURES showing more than 200 inmates have escaped or absconded from prisons in England and Wales in the last year are “worrying”, a politician has said.

Two male criminals escaped jails in 2013-14 while another two escaped prisoner escorts, according to government data.

There were a total of 225 absconds – an increase of 21 compared with the previous year.

This included 137 from open prisons, which have been the subject of controversy after a spate of walkouts.

Work on the Wrexham ‘super prison’, which will be be Britain’s biggest and is set to house more than 2,000 inmates, will start in the coming months, if full planning permission for the £250 million build is granted. The jail will be operational by late 2017.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said any absconsions were “very worrying” and with the prison due to open in 2017, the issue of security must be taken seriously.

“I can understand there will be concerns but I think we need to look very clearly why the increase has happened, what the reaction of the Ministry of Justice is and what steps will be taken to improve security,” he said.

“When we get back to Parliament I will make investigations to find out what is being done.”

The most high-profile absconsion was Michael Wheatley – known as the ‘Skullcracker’ – who sparked a nationwide manhunt after absconding from HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

The figures from the National Offender Management Service (Noms) show 90 absconders who have disappeared from prisons in the last decade were still at large at the end of last month.

Another 79 have not returned after being granted temporary release since 2004.

The data suggests that prisoners went missing at a rate of around one every two days.

But it showed that, although the number of absconds has risen year on year, the total of 225 was the third lowest since the current method of counting was introduced in 2004.

See full story in the Leader

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