Almost 20 offenders have absconded from Kirkham Prison in the last 12 months

18 offenders have absconded from HMP Kirkham over the past year, according to police appeals.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 11:50 am
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 12:50 pm
Three offenders have absconded from Kirkham Prison this month.

Three prisoners have been reported missing in the last week alone, and in April, convicted murderer Thomas Parkinson evaded authorities for more than two weeks.

Police only told the public about 22 year old Nathan Alan Stewart, formerly of Albert Street in Penrith, on Tuesday - 11 days after he disappeared from the category D facility on August 16.

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Three offenders have absconded from Kirkham Prison this month.

Then on Wednesday, August 28, police confirmed that Eric Keogh, 31, and Christopher Stevenson, 38, both absconded from the category D facility.

That brought the total number of police appeals for absconded prisoners in the last year to 18.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “I am concerned to hear of further absconds from Kirkham Open Prison.

“Overall Kirkham is a good prison with dedicated staff carrying out pioneering work with prisoners who are coming to the end of their sentences.

Eric Keogh, 31, absconded from the minimum security facility on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

“Given the number of absconds, I am concerned at the selection process which is being used to decide which prisoners are suitable for the open prison environment such as that at Kirkham, and this is something I believe the Ministry of Justice needs to look into urgently.”

As a category D prison, Kirkham has minimal security, and prisoners held there are allowed to spend most of their day away from the prison on licence to carry out work or training.

According to the Ministry of Justice website, category D prisons should "only house prisoners that have been risk-assessed and deemed suitable for open conditions".

But an annual inspection report of Kirkham, conducted by the Independent Monitoring Boards and published in May 2019, claimed that "unsuitable prisoners" were still being transferred to the open prison, even after concerns had been raised in a previous report.

Convicted robber Christopher Stevenson, 38, absconded from the minimum security facility on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

"Despite assurances last year from the Prisons Minister that categorisation of prisoners was being correctly completed," the report said, "there are still prisoners who are unsuitable for transfer to a Category D establishment being sent to Kirkham."

"A number of those who arrived at Kirkham were deemed to be unsuitable for life in a category D establishment," the report continued.

On April 25, 31 year old Thomas Parkinson escaped from HMP Kirkham through a window.

Parkinson, from Ribbleton in Preston, had been serving a life sentence for murder.

Police waited more than ten days before telling the public that convicted burglar Nathan Stewart had absconded earlier this month.

In 2006, aged 19, Parkinson stabbed 23 year old Shaun Higgins in the back after gate crashing a party in Preston.

After he absconded, officers told the public to not approach him, warning that he "could be violent".

When he was finally caught on May 13, Parkinson's lawyer claimed "impatience" caused him to abscond, since he had been due for home release, but the decision had been delayed.

The IMB report also claimed that "drug debt problems" were a major cause of absconds, and said that in 2018, 21 prisoners had warned staff themselves that they were at risk of absconding.

The report said that had they not come forward voluntarily, "the figures would be a lot higher".

Convicted murderer Thomas Parkinson was missing for more than a month after absconding in April this year.

Inspectors also noted that most absconders were recent arrivals at Kirkham, and raised concerns that the reception billet they were housed in was "close to the main gates with direct access to the main road".

In the report, inspectors asked if, in future, it was possible to house new arrivals in a billet inside the main area of the prison.

It has not been possible to verify if this change has taken place.

The large number of broken and vandalised CCTV cameras was also highlighted in the report as a security problem.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The number of absconds from open prison has fallen by two-thirds in the last decade but we work closely with the police to recapture absconders and they face a return to tougher, closed conditions when caught.”

Nathan Alan Stewart, Eric Keogh, and Christopher Stevenson remain on the run from authorities.