Prisoner finally back behind bars after 17 years on the run

Kirkham Prison
Kirkham Prison
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Good things, so they say, come to those who wait.

It’s a mantra prison officials might well take to heart after a man missing from Kirkham was finally returned to jail, after 17-years on the run.

(From left to right) Dean Kerr, Lee Leatherbarrow, Charles Kendrick and (right) David McConnell

(From left to right) Dean Kerr, Lee Leatherbarrow, Charles Kendrick and (right) David McConnell

Having evaded capture for so long, Greg Newby was finally caught out by a night on the tiles, sent back to prison having being caught drink driving.

The capture of the open prison’s longest-running absentee came in the same week four more men went missing from the jail, raising concerns over an ongoing problem.

Two of the latest batch of abscondees have now been returned to custody, but concerns have been raised over repeat problems at the category D prison.

Newby, 42, of Berrywood Close, Duston, Northampton was granted home leave from Kirkham open prison – but failed to go back in September 2000.

He was arrested near Wrexham last Friday night when he was found to be almost twice the drink drive limit.

Magistrates in North Wales jailed him for six months for failing to return to prison and drink driving.

He was also banned from the road.

His solicitor Phillip Lloyd Jones told the court that in 2000 Newby had been very disappointed not to be granted parole more than half way through a five year prison sentence for assault.

The probation service had said that he was likely to re-offend.

But Mr Jones said that his client had proved them wrong and he had remained trouble free over the years until his arrest for drink driving.

Prosecutor Helen Tench said that just before midnight on July 14 police saw the Mercedes hit the kerb and it appeared to be “all over the road.”

He was sleepy and smelt of intoxicants and initially gave police a false name.

When pressed he refused to provide his details.

The following morning he provided his correct details and a PNC check showed that he had failed to return to Kirkham Prison after temporary home leave in September 2000.

Mr Jones said that his client had received a five year sentence for assault by the crown court locally.

He said: “He was bitterly disappointed to find that a probation officer recommended that he should not be paroled because he was a risk of re-offending.

“That hit him quite hard indeed,” At that stage he was transferred to Kirkham open prison and given home leave.

“He was allowed home and he did not return,” the lawyer explained. “It was an impulsive act.”

He was aggrieved and angry at not being paroled at that stage and took it upon himself to remain “on the run for the last 17 years.”

‘THE MISSING DOZEN’
Newby was one of 12 men missing from Kirkham earlier this year.

Four other men absconded last week.

Charles Kendrick, 25, from Carlisle, was serving a five year sentence after he was convicted of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs at Carlisle Crown Court in August 2015.

He absconded from the prison on Monday and was arrested in Carlisle on Thursday.

David McConnell, 34, from Liverpool, who is serving a sentence of nine years and six months after he was convicted of drugs and burglary offences at Liverpool Crown Court in October 2014, absconded on July 11. He remains at large.

Lee Leatherbarrow went missing from HMP Kirkham on the same day.

He was sentenced to five years in prison at Chester Crown Court in February 2016 for aggravated vehicle taking, conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal a vehicle.

Dean Kerr, 29, formerly of Stonegarth, Carlisle, went missing from HMP Kirkham on Saturday.

He was arrested on Wednesday in the Carlisle area and has been returned to prison. Also arrested this week was Darren Price, 39, from Kirkby, who went missing from the prison on Tuesday, March 7.

He is serving a 56 month sentence after he was convicted of conspiracy to steal in May 2015.

Price was arrested in the Wirral area and returned to prison.

The Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for prisons in England said safety was its top priority

A spokesman said: "Public protection is our top priority. When an abscond takes place, police are immediately notified and are responsible for locating the offender.

"Those who do abscond are returned to much tougher, closed prisons where they will have to serve additional time."

HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?
Concerns have been repeatedly raised about the rate of absconding from Kirkham.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said he was raising his concerns about the number of abscondees with the prisons minister.

He said: “It is simply not acceptable for one prisoner to abscond, let alone four in a week.

“I want to know what is being done to stop any future absconds.

“Perhaps we need to look more closely at the people we are allowing to serve their sentences at Kirkham.”

Coun Liz Oades believes the prison’s issues have an impact far beyond the Kirkham community.

She said: “The majority of these people are not local to the area and they do not stick around for long.

“I do not think there is necessarily an increased risk to people in Kirkham.

“But perhaps it is time to review staffing and funding in the prison system to prevent this happening.”