MP speaks out over prisoner's escape

FEARS were voiced today that “serious” offenders are serving sentences in a Suffolk open prison because there are no places left in closed jails.

FEARS were voiced today that “serious” offenders are serving sentences in a Suffolk open prison because there are no places left in closed jails.

It comes after one of the country's most prolific burglars - who is believed to have targeted tens of thousands of homes - absconded while serving a five-year term at Hollesley Bay.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, said he would now be calling on the Government to re-state its policy on open prisons after questions were raised over the case of Mark Wrest and why he was at Hollesley.

Police confirmed on Thursday that the 43-year-old - who in July 2005 left a judge astonished by the number of his court appearances for house burglary - had been caught in Cambridge, three days after absconding, but Mr Gummer has now said questions need to be asked of the Home Office.

He said: “It does seem to me that this is a serious case and I do think that the locality requires an explanation of why somebody with this huge list of past crimes was sent to an open prison.”

As well as calling on the Government to show clearly how it is making its decisions on where to place offenders, he added: “The Home Office has also got to answer the question 'are these people being sent to Hollesley Bay as there is no room for them anywhere else in closed prisons or is this still a proper open prison system?'.”

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A Home Office spokeswoman yesterday defended open prisons as the most effective means of ensuring prisoners are tested in the community before they are released.

She said: “All those located in open conditions have been rigorously risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public.

“The nature of open prisons means that we can never guarantee that prisoners will not abscond, but the number of those who do, in relation to the prison population, is now at its lowest level for ten years.”

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