Prison escape raises concern

MP Mark Menzies
MP Mark Menzies
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FEARS have been raised “domestic killers” could have escaped from an open prison.

The news comes as it was revealed six prisoners absconded from HMP Kirkham.

The prisoners were all classified as Category D prisoners to be eligible for the minimum security facility but it is understood some had been classified as more dangerous earlier in their sentences.

Prison bosses have launched an investigation into how so many inmates managed to abscond at once and have moved some inmates into more secure areas as a result.

They refused to confirm what crimes the prisoners were serving time for.

A prison spokesman said: “There has been a rise in the number of absconds in the last week and this is being investigated.

“Those who remain in open prison have been risk assessed to ensure they are suitable for these conditions.

“The parole board ask us to test them to see if they are suitable to be in the community and unfortunately sometimes they fail.”

Kirkham coun and Fylde Mayor Liz Oades called for a full investigation.

She said: “I’m shocked this has happened. We are told the prison houses some domestic killers.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said he would urgently seek a meeting with the prison governor.

He said: “When I last visited they indicated how low the absconding rate had fallen over recent years - however this has to be taken extremely seriously.”

Kirkham is home to almost 600 prisoners, including murderers, who are branded Category D as they are trusted to stay within the confines of an open prison. Many are coming towards the end of their full sentence.

A Prison Service spokesman added: “The number of absconds from open prisons is at its lowest level since centralised reporting of this type of incident began in 1995.

“Over 96 per cent of prisoners who abscond are re-captured and returned to custody.”

And in response to claims made to The Gazette that a prisoner was being allowed to man the prison’s main gate, the spokesman added: “The welcome centre is not the prison’s reception.

“It is a meet and greet area where prisoners are learning skills for a hospitality qualification. They do not check visitors’ ID.”