Six reasons why the prison system in Suffolk is broken
PUBLISHED: 10:49 14 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:21 14 October 2016
Fears elements of our prison system are not working have been sparked after yet another criminal escaped from Hollesley Bay on Wednesday.
A prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence for slashing someone’s neck is among a number of high-profile criminals to abscond from the open prison this year – raising concerns over the safety of Suffolk residents.
Latest absconder Stuart Guildea is serving a 12-year sentence for burglary, robbery and theft at the Category C institution.
Dubbed a “career criminal” by Judge Philip Bartle QC at his sentencing at Luton Crown Court in 2014, the 36-year-old is now on the loose with police warning the public not to approach him.
Guildea had been released from his last prison sentence just 11 days before joining a robbery gang which targeted Co-op stores and Ladbrokes betting shops in the Luton area.
Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore said it is a concern another prisoner has escaped and said he is backing calls for a review of how Hollesley Bay receives their prisoners.
At present, the National Prison Service operating under the Ministry of Justice controls who goes into the open prison, something Mr Passmore said should be reviewed.
“It is unfortunate that Hollesley Bay do not currently have control over who is put into the prison,” he said.
“This has led to dangerous criminals being put there in the past which has posed a threat to public safety, which is unacceptable.
“Having met with Hollesley Bay’s chief officer recently I know talks are under way to increase the control they have over allocation.
But he added: “However I do believe public safety should be paramount in all situations and it is concerning another prisoner has escaped.
“Adjustments certainly need to be made to first ensure the public are safe and that there are not dangerous criminals escaping and secondly to improve the control Hollesley has over their inmates, which is at the moment decided for them from above.
“I am a great supporter of open prisons and believe it reduces re-offending rates quite immeasurably and helps inmates function again in normal society.”
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey also believes open prisons like Hollesley are important – but noted they should not be an “easy place for potentially dangerous criminals to abscond”.
“I am concerned to hear that a prisoner has absconded from Hollesley Bay and I hope the police will shortly locate the offender,” she said.
“Once caught, those who abscond are returned to tougher closed prisons and will have to serve additional time on their sentence.
“Open prisons are important to help facilitate a prisoner’s transition back into normal life but they should not be an easy place for potentially dangerous criminals to abscond.
She added: “I have previously written to the prisons minister about this issue and was reassured that measures were being put in place to reduce the level of absconders. I will follow up with the minister on this matter.”
Members of the public are advised not to approach Guildea, who is described as white, 5ft 8ins tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and mousy hair.
They should instead call police immediately on 999.
Darren Fenn, 43, also left Hollesley Bay without permission in August to buy alcohol – before trying to smuggle it back in.
He is serving an 11-year prison term for attacking a man with a hammer.
Fenn, who lived in Shipfield, Sprowston, is now in Norwich Prison after pleading guilty to Ipswich Crown Court for escaping from custody and attempting to bring alcohol into the jail on August 22.
Gavin Owens, 33, absconded on August 7 for more than a month – despite serving an indeterminate sentence for attempted murder after he slashed a man’s neck during a street brawl in Hinckley, Leicestershire in 2008.
His disappearance sparked a nationwide manhunt until he was eventually caught on September 8.
Scott Rowland, serving five-and-a-half years for aggravated burglary and robbery, became the second inmate to escape Hollesley Bay within 24 hours in January this year.
At the time of his escape Mr Passmore expressed extreme concern and said public safety must not be compromised – Rowland was said to pose a significant risk to the public when he was sentenced.
The former carpet fitter was sentenced on March 1, 2007, after being convicted of an aggravated burglary and robbery near Battle in Sussex during which a home owner feared he would die following an attack.
David Dalling was given leave to visit an address in Lambeth, south London, in May.
Serving a five-year sentence for robbery and burglary, Dalling was reported missing after failing to return to the prison on May 20.
He handed himself in at Ipswich police station five days later.
Louis Stanley went missing following a roll call in January – just 24 hours before fellow inmate Scott Rowland was also reported missing.
He is serving a sentence of four years and six months for burglary and dangerous driving.
Police recaptured him in London a few days later.
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