Prisons 'failing' as 409 on run
MORE than 400 convicted criminals are at large around Ireland, with many guilty of offences that include attempted murder, sexual assault and/or weapons' charges, it has emerged.
Figures released by the Department of Justice reveal that 10 per cent of serious offenders, or 409 individuals, are presently "at large", or on the run.
One such criminal, who was convicted of serious assault, was transferred to the open prison at Shelton Abbey last September, from which he escaped by simply "walking out the gate".
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was heavily criticised yesterday by Fine Gael's Justice spokesman Alan Shatter for his abysmal failure with regard to the Irish prison system.
According to the figures, of the 409 convicts not in custody, 161 were convicted of theft; 50 of attempted murder, assault or harassment; 32 were found guilty of organised crime offences, and 31 were guilty of weapons and explosives offences.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Shatter said: "The minister's prison system has become completely dysfunctional. It is an indictment of the minister's ability to manage even the most basic functions of the country's prison system that 409 people can simply walk away from it, many of them highly dangerous individuals."
According to the Department of Justice, many of those who have absconded had been out on temporary release when they disappeared. But Mr Shatter says that didn't happen in all cases.
"One particularly dangerous individual who was convicted for assault and other offences was given a four-year sentence in 2007. Inexplicably, he was transferred to an open prison at Shelton Abbey in September 2009 . . . By October of that year he had escaped from custody by simply walking out the gate."
"Mr Ahern is failing abysmally in regard to prisons and it is clear he is presiding over a system that can only be described as dysfunctional."