Wednesday 18 July 2018

Eight still at large as 120 flee open prisons

More than 100 prisoners have escaped from Ireland's open prisons since 2012. Stock photo
More than 100 prisoners have escaped from Ireland's open prisons since 2012. Stock photo
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The Irish Prison Service has refused to identify the eight prisoners who remain at large after escaping from custody at open prisons during the past five years.

It comes despite recaptured escapees including a convicted murderer and a gangland figure.

More than 100 prisoners have escaped from Ireland's open prisons since 2012. While the majority of these have been recaptured, eight prisoners remain at large. Two of them have evaded being detected and recaptured for more than five years.

Figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show four prisoners absconded from custody at an open prison this year. Two of these were recaptured but two more remain at large.

The open prisons - Loughan House, Co Cavan, and Shelton Abbey, Co Wicklow - place minimal restrictions on inmates. They are often used to house those who require low levels of security or to prepare a prisoner who is due for release.

A Council of Europe report on prisons last year found Irish inmates were twice as likely to escape from jails than anywhere else in Europe.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show 120 prisoners have escaped from open prisons since the start of 2012. This includes 65 escapes at Shelton Abbey and 55 at Loughan House. Six of those who remain at large came from Shelton Abbey. Two of those at large had been detained in Co Carlow.

The Sunday Independent asked the Irish Prison Service to identify those prisoners who remain at large but this request was refused. The Prison Service was also asked to detail the charges, term of sentence and time each prisoner had left to serve before absconding. However, this request was also rejected.

"Due to the small number of prisoners concerned, the prisoners may be identifiable if any of the details requested were released," said a spokesman for the Irish Prison Service.

Nine prisoners fled from custody last year, significantly down from the 63 who absconded in 2012. Another 44 prisoners absconded between 2013 and 2015. Of these, four are yet to be recaptured.

The Irish Prison Service said it has established a "project team" in recent years to follow up on cases where prisoners have absconded. It works with the Garda and the Department of Social Protection to recapture prisoners.

Sunday Independent

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