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Nine prisoners released on Christmas parole go on run

Nine prisoners granted Christmas parole are still on the run, five days into the New Year.

The number of unreturned prisoners is slightly up on last year compared to a much bigger rise in the levels of Christmas leave granted to inmates at jails around the country.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison service said the numbers who had not yet returned to their jails were "not unusual".

However, the IPS declined to state the nature of the crimes committed by those still at large, the length of their sentences or the prisons they are missing from.

The number of prisoners granted parole at Christmas showed a sharp rise for the first time in years.

More than half were being detained in low-security centres.

The 176 inmates at Irish jails granted temporarily release this festive season bucked a downward trend in the numbers let out.

By comparison, just 107 were released the previous Christmas and 138 in 2007.

Sentences

But prison officials said the increase was indicative of the rise in the prison population and about 53pc of them were serving their sentences in either the Training Unit semi-open prison or Loughan House and Shelton Abbey open centres.

Despite the fluctuating number of releases, the level of non-returning prisoners has been static over the years.

When prisoners are given temporary release, gardai are immediately notified on a central and local level. They are also informed when a prisoner fails to return.

They are then placed on the force's "unlawfully at large" list and can be arrested and brought immediately back to jail without the need for a warrant or any other court procedures.

The inmates are granted varying periods of release under the Criminal Justice Act 1960, ranging from a few hours to up to 10 days.

All prisoners are usually back behind bars by mid February.

aphelan@herald.ie


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