Prisoner at large after release for Christmas

Cormac Byrne

AN Irish prisoner is now unlawfully at large after absconding following Christmas parole.

All bar one of 134 prisoners, who included murderers Sean Courtney and Malcolm McArthur, returned to their cells following their temporary release.

The prisoner now on the run is an inmate of the St Patrick's Institute for Young Offenders who is serving a 17-month sentence for the theft of a vehicle.

Another man who absconded from the minimum security facility at Loughan House in Cavan, where he was serving sentences for theft, robbery and burglary, presented himself at the prison yesterday evening.

"The gardai have been notified of the inmate who is now UAL (unlawfully-at-large) and he should be returned to prison," a Prison Service spokesperson told the Herald.

A further two inmates who were released over Christmas 2009 remain on the run.

A number of high-profile killers, including soldier Sean Courtney, who beat Patricia O'Toole to death more than 19 years ago, were among 134 prisoners allowed home.

The group also included Malcolm McArthur, who murdered Bridie Gargan in 1982.

The practice of granting some inmates temporary release over Christmas is long established and is provided for in the Criminal Justice Act 1960.