Prisoners who have absconded should not be in open prisons says Grayling

Prisoners who have absconded should not be in open prisons says Grayling

Justice secretary will prevent some prisoners moving to open jails after convicted murderer goes on run for third time.

The justice secretary is to prevent prisoners who have absconded from being placed in open prison conditions after a convicted murderer went on the run for the third time.

Arnold Pickering, 44, from Chadderton, Greater Manchester, failed to return to HMP Kennet in Maghull, Merseyside, after leaving the category-C jail on day release on Friday.

The search comes less than two weeks after the armed robber Michael Wheatley, known as Skullcracker, was caught by police in east London, having spent four days on the run, prompting alarm about the practice of allowing dangerous convicts out on day release.

Another prisoner, Thomas Moffet, 51, from Blackburn, Lancashire – serving an indeterminate sentence for a number of robberies carried out in his home town in 2006 – also failed to return, but late on Sunday he was arrested by officers from Lancashire constabulary.

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, said it was unacceptable for someone who had absconded to be held in open conditions.

Speaking on BBC News, he said the case showed there was “a further loophole that I now need to close”.

Grayling said it was “right, proper and sensible” for prisoners to be prepared for release by being held in open conditions, even if they had committed serious, violent offences. But, he added: “If people break the rules, if they abscond, if they stick two fingers up at the system, there should be consequences. Those prisoners should be placed back in closed conditions, and those prisoners will be. One has been recaptured. The other will go back into closed conditions once he has been recaptured.”


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