No fewer than 739 criminals, including rapists and drug pushers, have escaped custody or got released by mistake over the last 10 years in the UK, a new report has shown.
The Labour Party exposed the rot in the criminal justice system in the UK after releasing the figures of prisoners that escaped and those who regained their freedom due to mistakes made by the prison staff.
It was discovered that 739 prisoners had reentered society since 2012. In 2022 alone, 12 escaped, and 54 got released in error.
In one case, a sex offender released by mistake, raped a minor and sexually assaulted another woman after he got out of prison.
“This Conservative Government can’t do the basic job of keeping criminals locked up,” said Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Steve Reed.
Mr Reed added, “The public will be horrified and outraged that so many violent criminals, sex offenders, robbers, thieves and drug dealers have been let out by mistake.”
He stressed that “Dominic Raab must make sure criminals remain where they belong – behind bars, serving their sentences.”
However, Mr Reed noted that ” after a flood of bullying allegations,” Mr Raab “seems more interested in protecting his job than the public.”
William Fernandez, 26, detained at HMP Wormwood Scrubs where he awaited trial for grabbing a woman’s bum without consent, was released by mistake in March 2021.
He thereafter committed two other grievous sexual offences in Bristol.
Mark Fairhurst, who chairs the Prison Officers’ Association, stressed the actual figures might be higher, noting that more criminals escape from open prisons every year.
Mr Fairhurst blamed the errors on the shortage of administrative staff bedevilling the prison system.
“We have got a severe shortage of admin staff, so we have got inexperienced staff calculating sentences,” Mr Fairhurst told the Daily Express. “We have got a lot of agency staff, and they are not getting the correct training.”
Mr Fairhurst further disclosed that the escapees were exploiting a loophole the government had unknowingly created in the eligibility rules for open prisons.
“If you have got previous abscondings on your record, you can still be sent to the open estate. It used to be that you could only be sent to an open prison in the final 18 months of your sentence. Now it is three years,” Mr Fairhurst explained. “A lot of career criminals are exploiting that system.”
The report has put ministers under pressure to urgently look into the matter and emplace tight security measures to prevent such mistakes.